Ailing Retail Center Raises Safety Issue

Local merchants and residents who live near a deteriorating shopping center on the west side of Brea have urged the city to halt the decline.

Since the closure of a Ralphs supermarket almost a year ago, the Brea West Shopping Center at Central and Puente avenues has fallen into disrepair and become a safety hazard, said a group of residents and retailers at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The center's smaller businesses have suffered with the closure of the anchor tenant, they said.

"At night the center becomes a parking lot for huge trucks," said Murray Alterman, owner of Murray's Jewelers in the center. "We had a problems with loitering gangs for a while, but the police have been good about that. But there are a lot of women who work here and fear for their safety."

The center is also near a mobile home park of about 800 residents who are mostly elderly, and the absence of a grocery store hurts them, Alterman said. "They've lost their independence," he said.

The closure of the supermarket last year coincided with the opening of a larger Ralphs in the new Gateway Center on Imperial Highway, at the other side of town.

City officials said that locating a new tenant for the vacant 21,000-square-foot store has been difficult, because most grocers are looking for much larger spaces. However, the residents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting alleged that Ralphs is intentionally leaving the store vacant to avoid competition.

Mayor Glenn G. Parker said the city is aware of the situation, and has sent a letter to Ralphs' officials and the center's landlords urging them to resolve the problem.

If that effort fails, the city may consider adding the center to its redevelopment zone, which would enable it to obtain the property and secure a new anchor tenant, said Redevelopment Director Sue Georgino.

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