Two auto repair shops, long the target of relocation in the slow-but-steady redevelopment process in downtown Newhall, have been given 90-day notices to vacate the premises.
The businesses affected, Wanjon Auto and Automotive Tech (pictured, right), received letters from the City dated August 30 notifying them that their tenancy had been terminated.
The City’s Redevelopment Agency closed escrow on the parcel at Railroad and Main Street in November 2009 and immediately began working on getting business owners set up with relocation consultants. Both businesses are to vacate the premises by December 1.
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According to the Downtown Specific Plan, adopted by the City on December 22, 2005, the block purchased is in what is considered the “urban center zone” that will feature retail, offices, restaurants, lodging, entertainment and civic uses. The Plan specifically states “auto-oriented uses are not appropriate in this zone.”
The current owner of Wanjon, Cesar Garcia, says that he can’t possibly find another location and reopen without a lapse in business in 90 days. He also complained about the current streetscape and library construction efforts hurting his business.
“The last few months have really killed our business bad,” he said of the body shop that’s been in the location for the last 36 years. “I’m frustrated, it’s not L.A. County where you can point to a location and say ‘I want to put a body shop there’ and get approved right away. There are not too many locations in the city. We’re on a busy street and now they want us to go to an industrial center.”
Garcia also said that insurance companies that use his services would not continue that relationship if he moves.
“There’s a lot more to it,” he said.
City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said that the city is bound by law to work with the businesses to relocate them if possible.
“We have an attorney working on an appraisal and they will recommend a settlement amount,” she said.
The city plans to level the buildings on that block and attract new businesses to compliment the new library which will be across the street.
Georgia Marquis, of California Property Specialists, Inc., the firm hired to help Wanjon and Automotive Tech with their relocation, said that their firm was brought in this summer to work with the two businesses.
“We wanted to have conversations with them, but our opportunities were somewhat limited, as they ‘lawyered up’ right away,” she said. “The lawyers control everything.”
Marquis said that they are aware of Garcia’s need to get a conditional use permit for his new location and have been seeking parcels where either a CUP already exists or one can be fast-tracked for approval to fit into the 90-day window.
Garcia has also changed attorneys, delaying the process so his new counsel can familiarize himself with the case.
“While it is difficult to relocate a business like this, finding a new location depends on a lot of things, including the cooperation of the individual,” she said.
An auto insurance business on the block has a separate arrangement with the City that was worked out before the letters went out.