As a leasing representative for what I believe is the highest-quality developer of convenience shopping centers, (otherwise known as mini-malls) in Southern California, I am responding to the numerous letters you have published recently on this subject.
It is true, there are some old (and new) decaying convenience centers in the city that deter from the beauty of Los Angeles. I could also name countless corners we have beautified by taking down old, dilapidated and filthy gas stations, garages and buildings, particularly in the Hollywood, east and central Los Angeles areas, replacing them with really attractive centers. I find it inconceivable that people would prefer the former to the latter.
Our policy is to keep our centers as spotless as possible, with trash pickup, sweeping, watering and painting performed regularly. The convenience shopping center itself does not bring crime to the community; however by virtue of being a business, it sometimes falls victim to the criminal element. Merchants in a center are more protective of each other and often are less vulnerable than the single operator. Where deemed necessary, we supply security guard service. As for the argument that centers deter pedestrian activity, I feel this is much more a function of the fast times and busy lives we lead today than a lack of walking space.
Exception should also be taken to the landing of Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles for their actions against our type of development. It is unsound, for it jeopardizes the free-enterprise system and is just plain short-sighted in the dollars-and-cents issue. We purchase a corner and give that property owner a profit . . . one that results in income tax revenues and, of course, the property taxes get raised!
During the construction and development phase, we pay for a myriad of permits, follow all building rules and regulations, and in the process, pay for many city improvements. These can be in the form of additional fire hydrants, catch basins, street lighting or dedication of our land for street widening and our corners for better visibility, reducing accidents in the area. We replace sidewalks, add trees and not only landscape, but pay for the maintenance of the (now) city portions of our property.
Lastly, during the late '60s and early '70s, many a small merchant was forced out of a formerly successful business by high-powered discount chain stores, with which they simply could not compete. I have seen many people offered the opportunity to succeed in today's retail market who never would have qualified in a large shopping mall. They have taken second, third, fourth and more locations. Isn't this what "The American Dream" is all about?