A 52-acre parcel of the closed San Fernando Airport will be sold for $8 million to Lucky Stores Inc. for the construction of two distribution warehouses, casting a cloud over the city's plan to have a shopping mall built on the land, officials said Tuesday.
For more than a year the last large piece of land in San Fernando has been at the center of a tug of war between the city, which on its own has been seeking shopping mall developers, and the late owner's estate administrators, who want to sell the land quickly so that proceeds can be given to charity.
"At this point, it is premature to say what the city is going to do or not going to do with the land," Donald E. Penman, city administrator, said. "Simply because Lucky is buying a piece of property does not mean they are entitled to build whatever they want on it."
The sale comes at a time when city officials are waiting for results of a report from Price Development Co., hired by the city to line up interested tenants for a proposed shopping center.
The city wanted to find a developer for the site, then work out a sales agreement with the estate administrators.
The move last March to hire Price was unusual because the city does not own the property. But it can control what is built on the land through its zoning ordinances. The land is now zoned "quasi-public," reflecting its previous airport use. Any developer would need a new zoning designation from the city.
Although Penman would not comment on the impending report, he said the search for retail tenants was "not as successful" as the city had hoped.
Penman said that, in buying the property, "Lucky has essentially said, 'We will buy the property and go through the development process after we own it.' "
Officials from Lucky Stores were not available for comment Tuesday.
$19-Million Price Tag
The San Fernando Airport was shut in September, 1984, to clear the way for the sale of the property, which at that time carried a $19-million price tag, according to real estate brokers.
Joe Rawlinson, co-administrator of the estate of F. Patrick Burns, said Tuesday that the city's independent plans for the property had stalled the sale. He said that Lucky made the only offer to the estate that was not laden with contingencies.
"Mr. Burns died in 1980, and it normally takes three years to close an estate," Rawlinson said. "We are way past the time that this estate should have been closed. It was important for us to sell the property. This was the best offer we had."
Mayor Doude Wysbeek remained optimistic that a deal can be worked out with Lucky so that the city can still pursue a shopping-center development on the site. A tentative plan was presented to City Council by Lucky officials last June, which gave the city the option to buy part of the property not used for warehouse construction.
The council is expected to take up the issue Monday.