Fletcher Jones deal a boon for Newport

June Casagrande

NEWPORT BEACH -- City officials were way off when they dared to hope

than an 8-acre land giveaway to Fletcher Jones Motorcars would add $2

million to city revenues over five years. It has brought $6.6 million.

"I'd say this is a textbook example of how the public sector and

private enterprise can work together in a way that benefits everyone,"

said City Councilman Steve Bromberg, a member of the city's Economic

Development Committee that received the preliminary figures last week.

In 1995, the City Council approved a three-way deal with the Irvine

Co. and Fletcher Jones to hand over the land on Jamboree Road at no

charge to the car dealer. At that time, the city paid a $155,000 title

transfer fee and let the developer off the hook for about $2.8 million in

fees the company would pay to the city to develop its remaining Newport

Beach properties.

In return, the Irvine Co. handed over to the city the 8-acre parcel at

3300 Jamboree Road, and the city handed it over to the luxury car dealer.

The city also committed to help the dealer negotiate with the California

Department of Transportation for the remaining 1.2 acres that are now

part of the 9-acre dealership.

A little more than five years ago, Fletcher Jones moved from Quail

Street into a new home hailed as one of the most posh car dealerships

around. It has also been among the most successful. Now the nation's No.

1 Mercedes-Benz dealership, the company raked in record sales for 2001:

nearly $424 million in new and used car sales, a 24% increase over the

previous year. In December, the company sold 675 vehicles compared to 527

in December 2000.

"When we moved here five years ago, we anticipated selling about 400

cars a month," General Manager Garth Blumenthal said. "We most certainly

have exceeded our projections. I'm very pleased to hear the numbers that

are a positive reinforcement of the city's decision."

Mayor Tod Ridgeway noted that, at about $1.3 million a year in taxes

coming into the city, Fletcher Jones has been a much bigger boon than

predecessor Jim Slemons dealership, which averaged $500,000 a year before

ultimately going bankrupt in 1992.

"If you look at these gains, you can see what a good move this was,"

Ridgeway said.

* June Casagrande covers Newport Beach. She may be reached at (949)

574-4232 or by e-mail at o7 june.casagrande@latimes.comf7 .

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