The Azalea Retail Project that would create a shopping center on Firestone Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue moved ahead as the South Gate backed a resolution Tuesday night to build off-site city public works projects around the development and waive certain municipal fees.
The city would not contribute $12 million to subsidy the project as was previously proposed. Instead, the waived fees and public works construction would amount to an estimated $8 million in support for the project and its developer, Primestor.
“We are pretty excited about the opportunity to start construction later this year, [to] finally bring this project to a reality,” said Arturo Sneider, founding partner of Primestor during the public hearing.
The city's development of public work projects around the shopping mall is a key part of the agreement.
“We are doing all the public works instead of having Primestor do a portion of it,” said , South Gate City manager. “All the public works that go into their property line, so sidewalks, sewers, waterlines, things like that.”
The estimated $8 million for the city's contribution is not final and could change before the final calculations are determined in May.
“Those are the numbers they used to make the deal move forward,” said Troxcil. “The $8 million, even that is not firm.”
The City Council voted 3 to 1 for the resolution and a memorandum of understanding with the developer. Councilman Henry Gonzalez voted alone against the action.
Vice Mayor Bill De Witt abstained from the discussion and the vote due to a potential conflict of interest, which was not specified during the meeting.
“To this day [Primestor] has not told us what the heck are we getting for our money,” said Gonzalez. He expressed considerable concern over the financials of the project, and the impact it could have on the city's funds if the project is not a success.
Other City Council members said they believe the risk is worthwhile and in the interest of South Gate.
“This is a time where we have to take risks,” said Mayor Maria Davila. “We are making a decision in the best interest of the community.”
Councilman Gil Hurtado said financial involvement is a necessary step to entice new commerce to South Gate after the , which had supported local economic activity.
“Redevelopment is not there and we are basically on our own,” said Hurtado. “We have to move forward.”
Councilman backed the project for its economic impact while crediting Gonzalez’s opposition, which he said reduced the amount the city will need to provide in support.
“Because of [Gonzalez’s] tenacity we have got to a point where the city is financing a much lower amount of money,” said Morales.
More than a dozen residents spoke during the public hearing of the project, with most in favor for the Azalea Retail Project and supporting the need to keep commerce local by having more places to shop.
“As a resident of the city, I think it is very unfortunate that I have to go out of the city to dine with friends, or do shopping,” said Stephanie Ledezma.
Supporters said the shopping mall would help stop local money from leaving.
“This shopping center will help us keep the money that we use in [neighboring cities],” said Sofia Jimenez, a South Gate resident. “We want that money to stay in our city.”
Other residents cited concerns over the city's financial commitment and the viability of the project, pointing to the number of vacancies in El Paseo, another local mall.
“I see the vacancy rate of El Paseo,” said Alice Cueto. “I know it is a different location, but it is still South Gate.”
The City Council also approved an agreement that would upgrade 515 streetlights, result in a more efficient lighting system and provide the city with energy rebates from Southern California Edison.
The council also approved a one- to five-year agreement with Ron’s Maintenance to upkeep storm drain catch basins within the city at a price not to exceed $103,500 a year.
The City Council also issued three proclamations. One declared the week of April 8 as Telcommunicator’s Week and provided certificates of appreciation to the city’s police dispatchers.
The council also announced the month of April as the Sexual Assault Awareness Month and April 25 as Annual Denim Day, when people are encouraged to wear jeans as part of a sexual violence prevention and educational campaign.
Update: Vice-Mayor Bill De Witt owns property near the site of the Azalea Project. In order to avoid accusations that he is benefiting from the construction, De Witt has removed himself from the process.
Keep up with South Gate Patch Latino by subscribing to breaking news alerts, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Have an event or announcement you'd like to publicize? Just submit the event or announcement or upload your photos and video in our Neighborhood Gallery.