Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Opposes Liquor Sales at Proposed 7-Eleven

In a 14-1 vote Tuesday night, the ERNC also opposed the planned store’s 24-hour operating hours.

The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council voted, 14-1, to write a letter to the associate zoning administrator of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning opposing a proposal to build a 7-Eleven store on York Boulevard that sells beer and wine and operates outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The vote by the ERNC board on Tuesday night had two abstentions, and it followed a prolonged, one-hour 10-minute discussion that dominated the meeting at Eagle Rock City Hall. (Stay tuned for our story about a separate discussion on massage parlors in Eagle Rock.)

The ERNC’s decision comes 12 days after the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council's Land Use Committee recommended a conditional approval of the proposed 7-Eleven as the key tenant in commercial center that would be located at 4515-4527 E. York Blvd. and 1507 N. Tonawanda Ave., in the premises of the former Casa Princesa café, which doubled as a Sign-A-Rama store.

On Jan. 30, City of Los Angeles Associate Zoning Administrator Fernando Tovar postponed a public hearing about the planned 7-Eleven for lack of necessary outreach about the venture by the developers.

Backers of the proposed 7-Eleven are going to reapply next week to Tovar’s office, focusing solely on the application of the proposed convenience store rather than on the entire shopping center.

“We are going to fine-tune the site plan and re-notice and re-submit to the City next week,” said Tom Bergerson, a retail architect who has been liaising with city authorities on behalf of 7-Eleven. Bergerson said 7-Eleven would also contact TERA, Occidental College and the chambers of commerce in Eagle Rock as well as Highland Park as part of the corporate chain’s outreach efforts.

“We’ll reach out again to the neighborhood associations, but they meet on the same day as the Land Use Committee meets for you,” Bergerson said referring to the ERNC’s Land Use Committee. “In the past they’ve said that there’s a conflict of interest—they’ll take care of the recommendations to the city.”

Chad Warren, an associate of the key consultant for the project, David Degan, said he had met with business owners and residents in the vicinity of the proposed shopping center last Friday as well Monday this week.

“What I found was that probably 99.9 percent of the people I talked to love the idea of the [shopping] center of the 7-Eleven,” Warren said, adding that he had obtained signatures of support from 17 people, including the head of Sparkletts across the street, although he acknowledged that none of the nearby residents were willing to sign their names because they didn’t want to create any conflict in the neighborhood.

Jason Novotny, a project management consultant working for 7-Eleven, reiterated Bergerson's main proposal about giving a facelift to the former Casa Princesa building where the convenience store is planned before beginning work on two other buildings to the west, which, along with the 7-Eleven, would be part of a proposed shopping center.

The most significant opposition to the 7-Eleven came from Occidental College, whose director of communications, Jim Tranquada, made the following remarks before the ERNC board:

“This is an unfortunate situation. Like the rest of the community, Occidental looks forward to welcoming appropriate, new commercial development on York—we all look forward to the revitalization of the Boulevard. The college understands that 7-Eleven is the anchor tenant of a larger proposed development. The college understands that there’s a direct link between financing for the project as a whole and the liquor licensing for the 7-Eleven. But this would be the fifth liquor license within a three-block stretch of York Boulevard—a retail outlet that would be open 24 hours a day. We don’t believe that’s an appropriate use within walking distance of the college campus. We appreciate the efforts of the proponent to develop some additional conditions to try to address the concerns of the community, and we also appreciate the conditions put forward by Michael Tharp of the Land Use Committee at last week’s meeting. But we don’t believe that these conditions are adequate to address the presence of yet another liquor license on the boulevard. So the college regretfully opposes the conditional use permits that would allow liquor sales and a 24-hour operation.

Eagle Rock resident John Goldfarb told the meeting that he has had a change of heart regarding the project. “At first I thought that anything that would go up on York and Tonawanda would be better than what’s there now because I realize it’s very blighted, I am now against the 7-Eleven going in there.” The main reason for his opposition, Goldfarb said, was a letter that Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck wrote to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in May 2012, opposing the proposed 7-Eleven.

Yet more forceful opposition to the project came from the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, whose representative, Margaret Arnold, said:

“This has been a really hard one for us because what’s there now is ugly, it is a nuisance, but we’ve had to come down in the long run in opposition to this 7-Eleven going in there. We already have coffee in the neighborhood and we don’t need alcohol. Tonawanda, we are afraid, would become a conduit between Occidental and the 7-Eleven. It’s too narrow for increased car traffic, it’s too dark for foot traffic. It would be a very unsafe activity. And most of all we feel that a 7-Eleven and the other businesses that we’re hearing about going in there are just not in keeping with the character of York Boulevard. York was once the place to see and be seen—it had ice cream and gift shops. It’s been a really sad situation over a couple of decades—and now it’s coming back. We have small business owners who are taking the chance and making that happen, and those are the people who we need to be really supportive of as chamber of commerce members and community members.

Mo Oxford, captain of the Neighborhood Watch committee on Alumni Avenue, accused 7-Eleven of “targeting campuses for alcohol sales.” Such development is “not what we want—this is not in keeping with the character of my community,” she said.

LAPD Sgt. Fernando Carrasco, head of the Northeast Community Station’s vice unit, asked the developers if they could open a 7-Eleven without a liquor license.

“It would be a dry 7-Eleven,” interjected ERNC President Michael Nogueira. “That’s what they call it.”

Carrasco said that he brought up the idea of a dry 7-Eleven because there’s one on Glendale Boulevard and Alvarado Street in Echo Park that has been in business for about six months after the LAPD opposed granting it a liquor license.

7-Eleven’s project management consultant Novotny, who had earlier read out a 22-point list of “Applicant-Volunteered Site-Specific Conditions For Conditional Use Permit” for selling wine and beer in the planned 24-hour store as part of 7-Eleven’s reapplication to the city’s planning department—including alcohol sales from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.—responded that while the store could indeed be dry, “7-Eleven’s intention is to obtain the alcohol use [permit] for beer and wine.”

Nogueira asked the LAPD’s vice squad head if there’s any stipulation that the 7-Eleven in Echo Park could return to the planning process after a year and reapply for a liquor license.

“I got a call from Zoning and they said that they’d look into the matter in five years from now,” Carrasco said.

ERNC Land Use Committee chair Oren Bitan said that his committee, which recently imposed some conditions on 7-Eleven, generally supports the project as it is depicted in the developers’ renderings of the shopping center.

ERNC Vice President David Greene asked 7-Eleven consultant Degan if there are any guarantees that the project’s developers would build a shopping center, as depicted in their renderings, if the ERNC approved the 7-Eleven’s proposal to remain open 24 hours and permitted to sell beer and wine from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“I can assure you that it’s in the interests of the developer is to build the rest of the center, if there’s financing,” replied Degan, who has stressed in previous meetings that without the proposed 7-Eleven, the shopping center project would fall apart.

He added later, in response to a question from ERNC Sub-District 2 Director Kerry Tribe, that if the developer fails to get financing for a 7-Eleven, the only option “at this point” would be to lease the space out to a Coin Laundry business.

“We’ve had tenants who have contacted us, saying they want to pay 50 cents a square foot or $900 a month—how can the developer survive on $900 a month,” Degan explained, adding that the maximum lease offer that the developer has got so far is $1.25 per square foot.

Degan declined to specify, for reasons of client confidentiality, how much 7-Eleven was prepared to pay per square foot, but he said it would be “significantly more” than the offers the developer has received so far.

Tribe told Degan that a visual artist she didn’t find much in the proposed development that’s compelling. “It’s gonna sound corny but I also am quite moved by these arguments to make decisions out of hope rather than fear,” she said.

“And so, when I hear that there’s nothing else that can be done or we need this anchor tenant in order to secure financing, as sympathetic as I am to the work that you’ve put in, I guess I feel like going forward with this is making a decision out of fear.”

Related: Plant Nursery From Echo Park to Relocate Next to Proposed 7-Eleven in Eagle Rock

jayres February 08, 2013 at 05:20 PM
We could get a coin laudromat! I knew if we held out against 7-11 we could get an awesome business in that space! Hooray for thinking big and not being typical. Let me explain something to Jim Tranquada at Oxy, and all you others who are anti 7-11; If you really want a unique and thriving York blvd, it is imperative that there is a diverse collection of businesses, which includes locally owned proprietors, national corporations and franchises, as well as a wide range of goods and services that vary not only in the origins of their ownership, but also the diversity of its clientele, from the most upscale or niche, like Ba Restaurant or Society of the Spectacle, respectively, to general services, like 7-11,hardware stores,dry cleaners, etc, and all the way down to tattoo parlors and food trucks and some of the assorted colorful shops on York. In troubling economic times, it is good to have businesses with deep pockets, not just big ideas . We can't simply rely on the entrepreneur who has used up his savings and can only keep running a business in the red so long before he is forced to walk away. York blvd can and must accomadate all these businesses and can do so without losing its identity. Thriving neighborhood strips in los angeles, like Melrose, Silverlake blvd near the resevoir, Hyperion at border of silverlake and los feliz, Vermont in Los Feliz village, all have a very unique character and appeal, and they all have 7-11's and somehow manage not to lose their souls.
Ajay Singh (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Thanks, Jayres, for your valid, useful insights.
Kathy February 08, 2013 at 05:50 PM
There's already a 7-11 and laundromat right around the corner on Eagle Rock Blvd and El Paso. That's blight enough so close to the proposed site.
mark February 08, 2013 at 05:53 PM
I suspect they would rather have an empty storefront. Seriously folks, it's a 7-Eleven and it's going into an empty space. That is a good thing. On a personal level I'm against selling beer, wine, and especially junk food. Sure that and cigarettes account for 90% of their sales.... but still it's a 7-Eleven. If you are shopping there everyday... you should probably adjust your lifestyle, but getting a slurpee on the hotest day of summer isn't going to hurt you. Oh it's also a very popluar place for people to buy coffee. I'm way too much of a coffee snob to even try it, but I see quite a few people sporting 7-eleven coffee cups. Not everybody can afford to buy $2-3 cups of coffee every morning.
Scott Martin-Rowe February 08, 2013 at 06:06 PM
There are several independently owned liquor stores near the proposed site that will see their prices undercut by a bulk-buyer like 7-11. Personally, I'd love to see a big Sunset Nursery type place go in there.
Jimmy Iaei February 08, 2013 at 06:08 PM
The sewer fees to open a laundromat are more than the building is worth. Don't hold your breath. Nice how everyone wants to spend sombody else's money
Mo Oxford February 08, 2013 at 08:00 PM
As I pointed out at the ERNC meeting, land development can be a risky business. Certain development is by law a matter of right of the property owner. Other development is speculative, meaning it requires certain approvals. While I understand that the property owner wants to make as much money as possible, his proposal is speculative and based on gaining the approval of several governmental agencies as well as the surrounding community. Sometimes when you gamble, you lose. I am also less than trusting of much of what the developer is saying. At the ERNC meeting, he claimed that the failure to meet the legal requirement for posting the property was the fault of the City of LA. Vanessa Soto of the LA Planning Department has confirmed that to be untrue -- it was the responsibility of the property owner, not the city. The owner has leased space to Echo Garden Nursery, which is a wonderful addition to our community. I'm sure the owner/developer can find more businesses like the nursery that will be welcomed into our community. But 7-11 is not one of them.
Mo Oxford February 08, 2013 at 08:17 PM
Oh, and Ajay, it is not just my accusation that 7-11 is targeting college campuses -- 7-11 IS targeting college campuses. Take a look at the 7-11 corporate website where, by the way, this location is already listed as "under construction" and available for franchise. 7-11, a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings, which is wholly owned by the Japanese company Ito-Yokado, announced plans for growth of more than 1,000 stores in the U.S. a few years ago. Los Angeles is one of nearly 40 cities nationwide targeted for growth by 7-11. Targeted site locations include college campuses, and demographically, 7-11 is looking for "middle-income areas" with a "strong percentage of population in the 18-34 year old range." Targeted activity generators include sites on a "commuter oriented artery" which is "nearby big box or shopping outlets." Forget small, local businesses for 7-11 sites. Over the last few years, 7-11 has introduced its own proprietary brand products, including both beer and wine. 7-11 is NOT aiming for or interested in serving the local community -- it is aiming for transient commuter patronage near other large chains. 7-11's business model is virtually guaranteed to knock our small, local businesses off the map and turn the area into something other than what it is -- and that is something I and my neighbors do not want.
Michael Blanchard February 08, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Jaryres - Your input would have been quite helpful before we voted on this matter. You are always welcome to attend the ERNC meetings, send us your thoughts via Facebook, Twitter, or email info@eaglerockcouncil.org. [I speak as an individual member of the ERNC, and not on behalf of the board.]
Tim Ryder February 08, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Another nonsensical comment from Kathy. "Blight'??? You live in a concrete jungle for God's sakes in the middle of a city of 10 million people! You don't want "blight" then you're going to have to live in the Mojave desert away from people. Seriously, we are trying to have an intelligent debate here concerning a 3 million dollar investiment in our community and you keep harping on about "Blight"? Do you have a life, just asking...
Tim Ryder February 08, 2013 at 10:15 PM
As a member of Eagle Rock's Neighborhood Watch I can honestly that say we have never had any problems with the 7-11 on Colorado blvd. Not only is 7-11 a HQ for local LAPD officers (who also get free coffee), but is a very important part of our community. It's a convenience store for God's sake! People on the go like me sometimes don't have time to buy a gallon of milk at a Supermarket and I haven't been into a 'liquor store' in years. My 'kids' love going to 7-11 and it's the safest place on the planet. Just because Oxy's rep Mr. Tranquada can't control his own student's underage drinking, sex, marijuana smoking (see Obama's biography) etc, doesn't mean the 30,000 Adults in Eagle Rock have to endure Prohibition again. Maybe we should call it 'Demon Rum' instead of alcohol like they did in the 1920's from the way the rude mob in the council meeting were screaming about it.
Mo Oxford February 08, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Tim, you're focused entirely on the alcohol issue -- which is certainly an issue but not the only one. The 7-11 at El Paso and Eagle Rock Blvd. is not the safest place on the plant -- it has been a draw for transients, drug deals and drug use, and crime. Convenience stores have long been known as crime magnets by law enforcement from the federal level on down. Just google "convenience store crime" and see how much information on it pops up -- everything from studies done on it to the high number of robberies and fatalities of convenience store clerks to recommendations for improving safety. It is a real and serious community safety issue -- and it isn't about prohibition or demon rum. Your anger over ERNC activities to limit marijuana dispensaries colors everything you say with the brush of exaggeration and, frankly, serves only to discredit you.
Baker Montgomery February 08, 2013 at 11:11 PM
I appreciate your comments Jayres and echo Michael Blanchard in wishing you had been at the last meeting (or at the least written the ERNC an email). Unfortunately, comments on Patch do not make it to the zoning administrator. (I am speaking on my behalf and not that of the ERNC.)
Michael Turmon February 10, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Tim, you're exaggerating. There are occasional sketchy things at that 7-Eleven. Do you remember this shoot out? http://www.boulevardsentinel.com/10-2001.htm I go there too, with my kid, but we would be fooling ourselves if we said the neighbors won't have new issues to contend with if a 24 hour store opened close to them. I live not far from Tommy's, another late night place, and we get a disproportionate amount of trash and food wrappers from them. It's the nature of late night businesses.
Tim Ryder February 14, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Hey Mo, you could be right there about 7-11 being a magnet for crime but I just don't see it down at the 7-11 on Colorado Blvd.. I must confess I do like to check things out for myself with my own two eyes and of course that is the reason I questioned the ERNC's handling of the medical marijuana issue. I only asked Michael Larsen to show me the stack of e-mailed nuisance reports he held up at meetings so I could verify what he was saying. His refusal to release those public records is why got involved in the issue in the first place. Now when anybody says such and such is 'bringing in crime' I don't believe them until I see the evidence. I guess it's just the way I am nowadays. Good comment though and you use your full name so I also respect that, Mo.
Michael Larsen February 14, 2013 at 03:47 AM
I know it's very difficult for Tim to understand this , but... a. I never had a "stack of e-mailed nuisance reports" at any meeting. I have never had access to any "reports". b. In response to his request for any complaints I received in person, on the phone or email about the pot shops in Eagle Rock, I sent him via email, in person at a public meeting, and posted publicly on the Patch, a breakdown of the complaints based on what the City Attorney would allow, considering the sensitive and possibly criminally-related nature of the complaints. This happened over two years ago now. It's clear that Tim is interested in knowing all the personal details of anyone who disagrees with his positions, especially those who complain about potentially criminal activity that he happens to support (see his website advocating unregulated pot shops: www.ccuwc.org). I understand that he gets very frustrated when those who speak out don't share personal information with him, but he needs to realize that there are serious criminal elements involved in marijuana distribution and prostitution rings in Los Angeles, and prudent people must be careful not to attract the attention of those elements. One can only imagine why Tim continually demands personal information on those who complain about problems in the neighborhood, but I don't think it's helpful or productive to improving the quality of life of the average Eagle Rock resident.
nonoise February 15, 2013 at 04:51 PM
The 7-11 on Colorado has not been a problem. It has to do with the community. The 7-11 in Highland Park is another liquor store and nothing else. If anyone has spent any time there all you see is people coming and going buying liquor. We do not need that. Location has a lot to do with it. Highland Park has liquor stores on every block. Don't start a bad trend by having another 7-11 come into Eagle Rock. It will start a trend of one liquor store after another. It brings crime. Just ask LAPD. Glad to see so many community activists attended the meeting. And, it is extremely nice to LAPD officers that care enough to get involved! Not enough of them. Kudo's to those that care. No more 7-11's. They are the new liquor stores.
Tim Ryder February 16, 2013 at 06:36 AM
I've finally come to the conclusion that Mr Larsen and I just don't see eye to eye on the medical marijuana issue that has engrossed not just our little Eagle Rock but the entire nation. It is a complicated issue to be sure, I think we can all agree on that. I just didn't see the collectives causing all the problems that Mr. Larsen was saying they were causing. In a nutshell I wasn't seeing what he was saying. Hence, I asked to see the nuisance reports he said he was supposedly getting from all these people so I could see what he was seeing. Anyway, the fact not in doubt is that the Legalization of cannabis is right around the corner, if not here already, and once the Federal government gets called away on more urgent matters, I look forward to working with Mr. Larsen on more practical strategies (not prohibition) to help unite the collectives with the community as we move forward as a free society.


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