The Los Angeles Police Department received 122 calls for service over a one-year period prior to May 2012 within a two-block radius of a proposed 7-Eleven store that wishes to sell beer and wine on York Boulevard and Tonawanda Avenue.
According to a copy of a May 28, 2012 letter written by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to Morella Herrera, licensing representative of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Los Angeles, seven businesses within the ABC census tract of the proposed 7-Eleven were licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
“There are four Off-Sale ABC licenses and four On-Sale license locations, but only three [of each type] are permitted within the census tract,” according to the letter, which refers to “Alcoholic Beverage Control File No. 521964.”
Patch obtained a copy of the letter from the office of Council member José Huizar on Wednesday, when a scheduled public hearing on the planned 7-Eleven project was postponed indefinitely by City of Los Angeles Associate Zoning Administrator Fernando Tovar because of insufficient public outreach on the part of the applicants.
If the proposed 7-Eleven is granted a new ABC license for off-sale (consumption of alcohol—beer and wine only in this case—off the premises in original, sealed containers), there will be a total of five such licenses within that particular census tract (#1834.00), the letter states.
The neighborhood already has “other establishments that offer Off-Site sales, which, based on its very nature, invites loitering, narcotics activity, and drinking in public violations,” says the letter. “Based on the above-stated facts, the Northeast Area Vice Unit strongly opposes the granting of an ABC license for this establishment. The Northeast Area Vice Unit, although supportive of local businesses, strongly believes that another ABC Off-Site licensed location in this community would not be beneficial or support the needs and health of the community as a whole.”
Developers for the proposed 7-Eleven stress that without a “Type 20” off-sale beer and wine license that they have requested, neither the store nor the commercial center planned around it would be financially viable.
The issue has become increasingly controversial lately. At Wednesday’s scheduled public hearing in City Hall, for example, three people who said they live near the planned site on Tonawanda Avenue told Patch that they oppose the presence of a 7-Eleven there.
Margaret Arnold, a board member of the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce who attended the public hearing, told Patch that the chamber officially opposed the proposed 7-Eleven last week "on the basis of not needing more chain businesses, more alcohol and traffic on side streets" along York Boulevard.
Last Thursday, the Land Use Committee of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council recommended a conditional approval of the proposed 7-Eleven as the key tenant in a $3.3-million 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. The matter will be discussed and possibly voted on by the full ERNC board at its monthly meeting at Eagle Rock City Hall on Feb. 5.
Among the provisions of the ERNC Land Use Committee’s conditional approval was that beer and wine be sold only from noon through 10 p.m. and that no more than 20 percent of the profits from the proposed 7-Eleven’s gross sales be from alcohol.
The latter provision is, however, not enforceable because there’s no law that limits the amount of profit that a convenience store can make from alcohol sales, Council District 14 Area Director Zenay Loera told Patch shortly before Wednesday’s public hearing was deferred.
According to a consultant for the proposed 7-Eleven, the opposition to the store from nearby residents is a relatively recent phenomenon that he did not encounter while meeting with locals over the past six months or so.
“I’ve spoken to at least 20 people in the community who said they support the project,” the consultant, David Degan, told Patch. The shopping center planned around the 7-Eleven would create roughly 44 jobs and “inject $1.7 million per year in the local community just from the income revenue of the center’s employees,” Degan said, adding: “The key word for last year was jobs, the key word for the year before was jobs, the key word for this year is jobs—we’re taking a blighted corner of the neighborhood and investing $3 million in it.”
Degan’s contention was echoed by Peter Hilton, chairman of the ERNC Land Use Committee until last October. In a comment Tuesday about last week’s Patch article on the committee’s conditional approval of the 7-Elven project, Hilton remarked:
“This is not just about a 711, it’s about a development that brings life to an area that was vacant land property that attracted crime and graffiti.”
As the committee’s chairman, said Hilton, he “walked the area and spoke to the residents around the proposed development, and no one was against it, in fact most were for it, and not one person came to the meetings to vote or speak against it.”
At Wednesday’s scheduled public hearing in City Hall, Tom Bergerson, a retail architect for 7-Eleven, told Associate Zoning Administrator Tovar that the LAPD’s crime statistics for the area around the proposed commercial complex were based on an “empty, vacant site.”
Allowing a 7-Eleven to open on the long-neglected site would dampen crime, the architect argued. “We feel that if there’s a new business in there those crime rates would go down," he said.
Project consultant David Degan invites readers to comment about the proposed 7-Eleven and what he might be able to do to help resolve criticisms of the project. Comments can also be sent to Vanessa Soto (email@example.com) in the Department of City Planning.