Public Hearing on Azalea Project to Resume at Next Council Meeting

The South Gate City Council voted to continue a public hearing on the Azalea shopping mall project and a $12 million subsidy sought by its developer.


The voted Tuesday night to continue a public hearing on a $12 million subsidy to Primestor Development, the developer of the Azalea retail project that would create a shopping mall on Firestone Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue.

The only resident who discussed the project during the public hearing was Virginia Johnson, who said she no longer supports the development despite initially backing it.

“I was 100 percent for this project in the beginning until I realized how much money they were asking from our community,” said Johnson. “I say the developers are asking for too much money.”

Primestor representatives argued that the $12 million subsidy is fair, and that opponents do not have sufficient information on the project or the funding proposal.

 “They do not have enough information or knowledge [about the project] to know whether it is too little or too much,” said Arturo Sneider, founding partner of Primestor, when asked by Patch about the subsidy.

The subsidy was described in the council agenda as a $12 million sales tax revenue and property tax revenue incentive.

Councilman Henry Gonzalez asked about rumors that some potential tenants of the shopping project have dropped out.

“I don’t know if it's true or not, but I have heard some of the proposed tenants backed out,” said Gonzalez, who has also raised concerns about the size of the subsidy.

Sneider told Patch that tenants had not backed out, but rather competing projects were approaching them and trying to entice the tenants to move.

“There are competing projects that are gaining a lot of steam and that are talking to our tenants about moving,” said Sneider.

The project has been in the works for 19 months, Sneider told the council.

The council voted to continue the public hearing to its next meeting on March 27. Vice Mayor Bill De Witt excused himself from the discussion and abstained from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest, but he did not specify as to what the conflict involved.

In other business, the City Council voted 4 to 1 in favor of allowing an appeal of a Planning Commission decision denying a permit to allow a small recycling collection facility on Firestone.

The City Council was told a recycling plant representative who had been scheduled to appear before the Planning Commission was not able to make it due to a family emergency. Because of the absence of this expert, the majority of the council agreed that another hearing would be fair.

“We should give him the opportunity to present to the commission,” said Mayor Maria Davila.

Jorge Morales was the only council member who opposed the appeal.

“It's an issue of aesthetics,” said Morales after the meeting. He cited the existence of another recycling facility in the area. “Maybe if they were to put it somewhere else then I would probably consider it.”

The City Council also discussed the closure of a post office in the Hollydale neighborhood and another on Firestone Boulevard. Both were supposed to be closed in May, but they will continue to operate beyond that time to avoid disruption during the election season.

Vice Mayor De Witt and Councilmember Gonzalez agreed to meet with businesses in both areas to discuss how the city could help prevent the closure of both post offices.

The council also agreed to continue working on the possibility of designating the Firestone Boulevard post office as a historic building.

Councilman Gil Hurtado excused himself from the post office discussion and motions, because of a potential conflict of interest since he is a U.S. Postal Service supervisor in Downey.

The councilmembers also heard a presentation by representatives of the American Cancer Society and unanimously supported the group's Relay for Life event set during the weekend of July 14 at . 

The City Council also approved a list of recommended projects from the Citizen's Advisory Committee.

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Virginia Johnson March 17, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Are there safeguards for the 12 million dollars from South Gate's General Fund in case the Azalea mall stumbles and can't make ends meet? As far as I know, South Gate has never had to subsidize a shopping mall out of the General Fund. I might be wrong, I have only been going to Council Meetings for 12 years. South Gate does not have a surplus and every dollar counts for infrastructure of streets, roads, Public Works projects, etc. The El Paseo Shopping Center on Garfield and Firestone was supposed to be the big pie in the sky 13 years ago, and they are barely breaking even (if that). 80% of their stores have closed since they were first built. What about our 1% tax that 70% of South Gate voters voted on a few years back? Is some of this money going toward the Azalea Shopping Project for years to come? We as a Community deserve to know this? What are we giving and what will we receive NOW not 10-20-30 years from now? Do we have oversight on the property to keep out medical offices, Realty's, etc., that do not generate tax money for the City but offer rent money only for the Developers? I still believe this Project is a good thing, it is just I have reservations on what we will lose over and above the 12 million that we don't really have, and will we lose our dedicated S.G. Police Officers and even more if they fail. Thanks, Virginia Johnson
Alejandro Lopez de Haro March 17, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Thank you for your comment Virginia! Is there anyone out there who agrees or feels differently about this?
Jaime Garcia March 18, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Good points Virginia, all well and valid. Other things to consider outside of the development is what it will bring to the city. One of the issues that have been raised is the amount of money South Gate loses when residents spend their money outside the city at nearby shopping centers. I don't remember the number but I do recall it being in the millions, but if we are able to capture some of that money lost that would certainly help. The other thing to consider is the ripple effect the center would have on the city. For example, while there may be tax generated by sales at the Azalea, you would also consider sales from Gas Stations for example, as more people would be in the city using some other city businesses and services outside of the Azalea, but still within city limits. That would also draw in more tax revenue. As far as the El Paseo, I too see what is at the shopping center and can understand your sentiments. It would speculative, but there is hope that there can be some lessons learned from El Paseo that can eliminate similar mistakes. There is great potential, and I like you, hope that departments like SGPD and South Gate Residents can benefit.


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