Debate Over Fresh and Easy Parking Lot in Crenshaw Heads to Full Council

Photo: ##http://www.jasmynecannick.com/blog/?p=6756##Myjasmynecannick.com##
Looks nice, from the inside. Photo: ##http://www.jasmynecannick.com/blog/?p=6756##Myjasmynecannick.com##

The debate over whether or not to allow a Fresh & Easy to open a new store on Crenshaw Boulevard at the intersection with 52nd Street with a large parking lot facing the street heads to the full City Council this Wednesday morning at 10:00 A.M.  The matter was moved to the Full Council by the Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee without recommendation, despite the development’s strong support from the local Councilman, Bernard Parks.

The City Council needs to approve the development as planned because the placement of the parking lot means that it would violate the Crenshaw Specific Plan, which was previously approved by the Council.  You can read about the proposed development, hereOne of the great ironies of this project, is that the Ford Dealership that used to be on the lot now owned by Fresh & Easy did have a storefront directly on the sidewalk, with the cars being inside the company.

To be clear, nobody is arguing that there shouldn’t be any car parking for the site, but that it should be pushed behind or above the store so that pedestrians don’t have to cross through a dangerous parking lot to get to the store itself.

The debate over the opening should have been avoided but instead we see a community divided over whether or not to allow the development to exempt itself from the Crenshaw Specific Plan and build a parking lot at street level between the sidewalk and the entrance.  The opening of a new store, especially one with the reputation of Fresh & Easy, ought to be something the community can celebrate together.  Instead, we have a fight over a parking lot. 

On one side, we have residents clamoring for the benefits such a store would bring to the Crenshaw Corridor.  On the other, we have residents demanding that the Specific Plan be adhered to and that Crenshaw be preserved as a walkable community as the community wants.  This entire debate could have been avoided if Tesco, the parent group of Fresh & Easy, had moved with a plan similar to the one other South L.A. stores have received.

Community groups, such as Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE), have insisted that the lot be pushed behind or above the store so that the pedestrian environment along Crenshaw Boulevard is enhanced, not made more dangerous and less appealing.  A letter prepared by HOPE for the City Council can be found at the end of this article.

That being said, there are factions of the community that look forward to the arrival of the Fresh & Easy, parking issues be damned.  The Park Mesa Heights Community Council sees the development as an important part of the redevelopment plans for the region.  PMHCC has been at least as active in promoting the market to the neighborhood as HOPE has been in demanding that the plan follow the Crenshaw Specific Plan.  Naturally, supporters of the project have their own action alert to fill Council Chambers on Wednesday.

While the outcome of Wednesday’s hearing is uncertain, what is clear is that nobody benefits from a fight over parking and whether or not the developers is following the areas planning documents.  Even if Fresh & Easy wins on Wednesday, the ugly fight could be a blemish on the store that follows it for years.

All of that so that they could place a parking lot where it doesn’t belong.

Date:

City Council of Los Angeles

City Hall

200 N. Spring Street

Los Angeles, CA 90012

RE: HOPE’s Appeal of the Proposed Fresh & Easy at 52nd/Crenshaw (Council File: 10-1537)

Dear Honorable Council Members:

I’m writing this letter to express my support for the Crenshaw community’s efforts to encourage pedestrian oriented design principles in new developments on Crenshaw Boulevard.  In a city, where so many uses are auto-centric, the efforts of the Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (“HOPE”) to create a pedestrian oriented area in their South L.A. community deserve commendation.

Developing people-friendly business corridors is important to creating green, safer and enjoyable streets, addressing global warming, and strengthening the local economy, which should increase city tax revenue.  These are the stated objectives of the City of Los Angeles, and I encourage you to put these goals into practice through the City Council’s land use decisions.

The Crenshaw community should not have to choose between a new grocer and compliance with the pedestrian orientated design guidelines of their Crenshaw Specific Plan.  They deserve both.  Don’t vote to short-change Crenshaw.  Please vote to support the long-term Crenshaw community pedestrian-oriented vision by:

1) Upholding the appeal by HOPE, and

2) Encouraging the developer to sit down with the group to come up with a design for the site that complies with the Crenshaw Specific Plan.

Sincerely,

__________________________

SENT TO: councilmember.reyes@lacity.org, councilmember.krekorian@lacity.org, councilmember.zine@lacity.org, councilmember.labonge@lacity.org, paul.koretz@lacity.org, councilmember.cardenas@lacity.org, councilmember.alarcon@lacity.org, councilmember.parks@lacity.org, councilmember.perry@lacity.org, councilmember.wesson@lacity.org, councilmember.rosendahl@lacity.org, councilmember.smith@lacity.org, councilmember.garcetti@lacity.org, councilmember.huizar@lacity.org, councilmember.hahn@lacity.org, patrice.lattimore@lacity.org

Cc: Winnifred Jackson, HOPE President (president@hydeparkhope.org)

  • Having lived 85% of my life in strip mall-filled West LA, I can really relate to this fight. Nothing ruins a streetscape for pedestrians like a parking lot in front of businesses.

    I sent my email!

  • Chris L

    Its clear that the trend in our cities is to push parking towards the back, letting retail front the sidewalk. So really, the question here is “Does Fresh & Easy want this store to be a relic of the past before the first brick is laid?”

  • Chris L, spot on.

    Also, It would also be unfortunate if F&E decided to follow the guidelines, but then put the entrance in the back.

    There’s a stretch of Pico by me with a nice street life, cafes, retail, etc.

    But right in the middle of it all, there’s an entire block with a Trader Joes, produce market, vintage clothing store, and US Bank where all of their entrances are through the rear parking lot. It’s a total street life killer where it could be such an environmental enhancer.

  • It’s hard not to feel just a little sympathetic to the neighbors who just want to see this built.
    After all, a grocery store, especially a high-quality one like Fresh and Easy, is one of those strong indicators of community economic growth. Also, F&E does have a habit of going into areas Trader Joe’s wouldn’t touch with a cilantro-flavored ten-foot pole.

    That said, it does seem like Fresh and Easy could do what I’ve been asking Metro to do at its train stations… build more entrances….

  • ywhynot

    I really do not like the tone of this article. As some who has grown up in the Crenshaw and Hyde Park area, I will say that this is not a fruitless fight. The neighborhood body has decided to be more pedestrian friendly walkable neighborhood. They have set up clear guidelines to promote this and they should be adhered to.

    Crenshaw is already a car-centric behemoth street as it is. It is not asking too much of the grocery chain to put the parking lot behind the store and locate an entrance to the street at the front and rear.

    A very well respected grocery store has decided to finally infiltrate this area of the south LA where there is a complete lack of quality grocery stores. That should not give them the right to do as they please with no regard for the community as a whole. Also its not like this is asking much of them. They already have a franchise set up where they have done this exact thing (put the parking in the back).

    I hope this turns out well for all parties. It literally only takes a drafter a few hours to change the floor plans to accommodate the new change. Its not as big a deal as F&E would have you think.

  • I dunno. The tone seems pretty hostile to the idea that the parking lot should be where FandE wants it to be. I’m actually a little surprised he tried to present the other point of view.

  • Thanks, Streetsblog! Your reporting is correct in that this whole controversy could have been avoided with a more compact, pedestrian-friendly store design. The other irony here is that while Fresh & Easy deserves credit for opening another store in an underserved community, they don’t accept WIC vouchers, coupons or checks … which isn’t exactly customer-friendly.

  • Cesar

    The right thing to do is for Fresh & Easy to follow the specific plan and build the parking lot behind the store, thus keeping to the pedestrian oriented guidelines that the Crenshaw community came up with.

    The difficult challenge is that national retailers like Fresh & Easy and all other grocery stores have a cookie-cutter type, one-size fits all store model that asks for the entrance to face the parking lot, which is how most grocery shoppers are going to access the store. The way grocery stores are designed starts from the inside of the store, how they layout their products (dairy, meat, etc.) and that ultimately affects the outside of the store. You will rarely see a grocery store with two entrances (one in front and back of the store).

    Someone mentioned that they have a South LA store that did push the store to the lot line. If that store is doing well – it is definitely worth mentioning in order to build the case. If it is not – F & E might mention that as one of the challenges it is having.

  • The community is not divided on this issue. We want a Fresh and Easy. One letter doesn’t represent this large and diverse area. There was a small vocal minority that was fighting not just for parking but ultimately to stop the store from moving in. They had some valid reasons, but we need more choices. For more about Crenshaw and Leimert Park, visit LeimertParkBeat.com

  • UPDATE – Overwhelmingly approved by residents and the council – http://www.leimertparkbeat.com/profiles/blogs/crenshaw-fresh-and-easy

  • Articles

    Eddie neglects to mention that those people who “overwhelmingly approve” of the design, were bused in students and seniors, and all but two who testified limited their comments to discussion of the need for another grocery store and/or construction jobs, and didn’t go into the issue that brought the matter to the city council: the football field size parking lot fronting the street in a pedestrian oriented section.

    Eddie may be new to the area, so you may need to do a little bit more work to understand how and why the community fought for that pedestrian oriented designation. Its much simpler to just say the group who led the fight for those provisions “ultimately [want] to stop the store from moving in,” but it is not true.

    Here are a couple of blogs actually covering the issue in less shallow terms than Leimert Park Beat:
    http://www.thefrontpageonline.com/articles1-8512/WhyCrenshawIsPushingBackHardAgainstFreshEasyPlanParksIsScored

    http://www.cnu.org/node/3828

    http://www.cnu.org/node/3820

  • Seffra

    The rear of the store is needed for the loading bay and deliveries, which can’t be in the front.  The Specific Plan is silent as to parking for this project.  And the Guidelines to the Specific Plan, which carry less weight, state that parking shall be “to the rear.”  The planned parking at F&E is arguably “to the rear.”  And if it is not, the location of the parking is necessary to proper operation and design of the store and surrounding area, and qualifies for an exception to the Guidelines.  Thus, the design as proposed fits the Plan and Guidelines.  As far as the parking lot being “dangerous,” parking lots exist at grocery stores as they are necessary for customers to park and shop, and are not dangerous – no more than residential streets necessary to get to the store.  The parking lot planned at F&E, which is to be fully landscaped, is no exception.  This fight has nothing to do with the design of the project.  In reality, this fight is about Fresh & Easy being non-Union, and the community, which is starving for grocery stores, especially because businesses such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods won’t even think of coming in to the neighborhood,  is being meanly used to further the self-serving and narrow-minded ends of the union.  

  • Moot at this point.  Bets are that Tesco will sell or close the Fresh and Easy chain, and Crenshaw can keep their vacant facade.  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-12-05/tesco-poised-to-exit-u-dot-s-dot-after-starting-fresh-and-easy-review 

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