After two years of complaints from neighbors of the Edwards Drive-In Theater in unincorporated territory near Arcadia, the county has agreed to hold a public hearing to review a permit that allows the theater to conduct swap meets.
The Regional Planning Commission hearing was requested by Supervisor Pete Schabarum. A spokesman for Schabarum said that the supervisor's office has been receiving complaints about parking and traffic problems from residents in the area and from parishioners of nearby Annunciation Catholic Church on Longden Avenue near Peck Road. The spokesman said a recent petition showed that many people in the area are concerned.
A date for the hearing has not been set, but the spokesman said the issue is expected to be on the commission agenda in June.
John R. Gilles, a church parishioner and leader of the petition drive to close the swap meet, said there is no off-street parking for the swap meet at Live Oak Avenue and Peck Road. He said that even though Edwards closed the north gate fronting the church on Longden Avenue, people attending the swap meet still attempt to park at the church and walk to the Live Oak entrance.
740 Signed Petition
Last December, Gilles sent Schabarum a petition with 740 signatures asking that the swap meet permit be revoked.
The meet, which is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays, attracts about 10,000 buyers each day, said James Edwards, an owner of Edwards Cinemas, a Newport Beach-based theater chain that operates the drive-in. At any given time, there are about 1,000 cars involved, he said.
Gilles said that with no off-street parking, hundreds of cars search for places to park in the streets and use or try to use the church parking lot. He said there is debris left on all surrounding streets after each meet.
Robert Kinkead, head of the zoning enforcement section of the county Regional Planning Department, said that while Edwards officials are cooperative, parking and traffic congestion are the two problems that defy solution.
Edwards said his company is attempting to provide off-street parking by acquiring a couple of pieces of nearby property. He said cars would not have to drive through residential neighborhoods to get to those sites.
Permit to Expire in 1988
The focus of the hearing before the commission will be a zoning permit that expires in 1988. The Regional Planning Department first granted a zoning permit for the swap meet in 1968. It was renewed in 1978 with virtually no opposition. There are no conditions that regulate traffic or parking.
There was no opposition in 1978, Gilles said, because the meet was not large enough to cause problems.
At the 1978 zoning board hearing, a petition with 86 signatures in favor of permitting the swap meet was presented and one person testified that there was occasional lack of security and some parking congestion.
The hearing board also was told that the theater portion of the operation was losing money and that the swap meet was operating at a profit. This is still the case, Edwards said. "The drive-in operates at a loss so the swap meet is important."
Edwards Cinemas is a privately held chain that owns more than 75 theaters, including drive-ins in Arcadia, San Gabriel and Azusa. The Azusa theater, Foothill Drive-In, operates a swap meet on Sundays but because there is some off-street parking there are no problems there, Edwards said.