Lawndale officials seek developer for vital corner parcel

Lawndale officials seek developer for vital corner parcel

Kristin S. Agostoni DAILY BREEZE

Lawndale’s Redevelopment Agency is hoping a developer will buy several parcels it owns at the southwest corner of Manhattan Beach and Hawthorne boulevards, property the city expected to turn over a couple of years ago to a car dealer.

Since BMW moved its project to Torrance, the land near the San Diego (405) Freeway has sat undeveloped, used mainly for street fairs and Christmas tree sales.

Lawndale’s goal is for a developer to purchase the property it owns and then buy up neighboring pieces from private owners. The City Council directed city staff on Monday to prepare a request for proposals for the site in the hopes of stirring up renewed interest.

“My idea is, let’s go out with an RFP … It doesn’t make sense to sit there anymore,” said Councilman Larry Rudolph, who made the suggestion to his colleagues. “We’d like to get the biggest thing we could there.”

Rudolph and other City Council members have expressed hopes a restaurateur will eventually bite, but they also realize bringing a development to fruition at the busy southwest corner may be easier said then done.

The property in question was at the center of a debate a couple of years ago when Lawndale was trying to persuade neighboring land owners to sell their lots for the BMW dealership. The development would have straddled both sides of Hawthorne Boulevard, Rudolph said, with a smaller lot situated at the southwest corner.

Council members even placed a measure on the ballot in November 2002 that would have allowed the city to invoke eminent domain to acquire private property in certain areas, facilitating the BMW plan and others. The measure failed.

And as the property owners continued to hold out, BMW moved on.

“As soon as they found out the city wanted to buy it, they wanted more money than the city’s worth,” Rudolph said. “We couldn’t put the package together that we needed to do it. They (BMW) needed four acres.”

One of the local business owners reluctant to sell back then said he’d have the same concerns this time around.

If the offer isn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be worth the time and money necessary to move his shop, said Jose Padilla, owner of Professionals Auto Glass on Hawthorne Boulevard for the past seven years.

“I understand that they’re trying to bring in some more tax revenue, but at the same time they just want to push the small businesses out,” said Padilla, whose lot is squeezed between two city- owned parcels.

“You know how hard it is to get a business on Hawthorne Boulevard,” he said. “You can’t just bring big businesses in here and just move people out of the way.”

Councilman Jim Ramsey, who agrees the city could use a new family- style eatery, said a lack of available parking spots could be another concern.

“The fact is, if you put in a big enough restaurant, then you don’t have the parking,” Ramsey said. “The possibilities are endless, but it’s the fact of putting something together … it’s going to take someone very creative.”

Interim Community Development Director David Meyer said he plans to prepare an RFP for the City Council’s review in February.

Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2004

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