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McDonald's to Rebuild Two Blocks From Site of Massacre

January 02, 1985|MARJORIE MILLER | Times Staff Writer

SAN YSIDRO — The McDonald's Corp. is building a restaurant two blocks from the one where a berserk gunman killed 21 people last summer in the worst single-episode mass slaying in the country's history.

The company demolished the old restaurant, which had become a flower-filled altar to the dead, after residents made it clear they did not want to eat hamburgers where the massacre had taken place.

The McDonald's restaurant, with its playground, at 522 W. San Ysidro Blvd. was a popular community meeting place before James Oliver Huberty went on a 75-minute shooting spree there on July 18, killing 21 men, women and children and wounding 15. Huberty, 35, and a resident of San Ysidro, was killed by a police sharpshooter.

Dick Starmann, a vice president of the restaurant chain, said in a telephone interview from company headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., that he did not believe the company would face any marketing problems for the new restaurant as a result of the massacre.

"I think the community will support this McDonald's as they did the other. It will provide an income for employees and their families, and the community will patronize it as they did the other one," Starmann said.

'No Intention of Leaving'

"We always did a good business in the other location. It seemed to be the natural thing to relocate in that area. We stated last July that we had no intention of leaving the community," he said.

Starmann said community leaders had told corporate officials that they wanted the McDonald's replaced.

Bertha Alicia Gonzalez, publisher of a San Ysidro newspaper, Ahora Now, and founder of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, said, "I welcome all businesses into the community."

But she was more skeptical than Starmann about the problems the restaurant might face initially.

"I have heard comments from people who say how good it is that they are going to reopen, but I haven't heard anyone say, 'I will go eat there,' " Gonzalez said.

"A lot of people here still don't eat hamburgers."

Gonzalez noted that the new McDonald's will be highly visible from the freeway and might attract tourists traveling to and from Mexico.

The new location, which will have a play area like the old one, is in the 700 block of San Ysidro Boulevard near the Dairy Mart Road exit of Interstate 5.

Starmann said that employees from the old McDonald's will be offered jobs at the new location.

McDonald's officials said it usually takes about three months to build the golden-arched franchise's stores, but that no date has been set for the opening.

Starmann said that the massacre apparently has not hurt business at another McDonald's at the eastern end of this border community.

He declined to say how much money the company or the franchisee, Robert T. Colvin, lost in closing the San Ysidro Boulevard restaurant, but he said that the average McDonald's did $1.1 million worth of business in 1983 and more in 1984.

"We did what we did (closed the restaurant) because it was the right thing to do," Starmann said.

After the killings, the corporation immediately closed the restaurant and demolished the building two months later. It then donated the site to the City of San Diego. The city has not yet officially accepted the site nor decided how to use the land.

Elizabeth Brafford, a spokeswoman for Mayor Roger Hedgecock, said the city has received the deed and title for the one-acre site of the old restaurant and will vote on accepting the property this month. She said the issue of what to do with the land then will be turned over to the city manager for consideration.

The issue is likely to be controversial, as community members have made several proposals, among them a park, a memorial, a community meeting room, a youth center and a health clinic.

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