On the day it was scheduled to decide the fate of Ship's coffee shop, the Culver City Redevelopment Agency received a last-minute proposal that would allow the 1950s-style diner to remain at Washington Boulevard and Overland Avenue.
The proposal was drawn up by the redevelopment agency's staff at the request of agency members who had been faced with the choice of moving or demolishing the diner in order to widen Overland to improve traffic flow.
The board, which delayed a vote on the matter until Aug. 4, was scheduled to act on a plan to take the Ship's parcel by eminent domain, widen Overland--thereby eliminating 51 on-street parking spaces--and build a new 49-space lot at the Culver Center.
Under the new proposal, extra parking would be created by combining, resurfacing and landscaping the two smaller lots serving Ship's and the Culver Center. Access to Ship's from Overland would also be eliminated, thereby reducing congestion.
When the new scheme was presented Monday night, Councilman Paul A. Netzel said that the agency was "doing everything in (its) power to save Ship's" and that the proposal constituted "the one viable option brought before us."
Preservationists were encouraged by the new proposal.
"The alternative seems to be the most practical to provide a win-win solution for all parties," said Ruthann Lehrer, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy, which helped organize support for Ship's. "It didn't come as a great surprise, because there has been so much public support for retaining Ship's."
The new proposal "was a surprise, though not unwelcome," said Howard T. Ryan, co-owner of the Ship's parcel, who is opposed to moving the restaurant.
But Susan Berg, manager of the redevelopment district that includes Ship's, said that although the staff drew up the alternative at the request of the agency, it still believes the city should move Ship's and use the parcel to replace on-street parking spaces that will be lost when Overland is widened.
The agency has been trying to acquire the parcel from Ryan and co-owner Ramon J. Blanco since August, 1984. City officials have said they need the site in order to add three lanes, a turn pocket, a storm drain and a 10-foot-wide sidewalk to the western side of Overland.
But Ryan, a Los Angeles developer, has said the city wants to remove Ship's so motorists will have a better view of Culver Center. Ryan has said Ship's would not have to move if Culver City would narrow the proposed new lanes on Overland Avenue.
An April environmental impact report suggested that the agency pay more than $40,000 to move Ship's to another site, a proposal rejected by both Ryan and Ship's owner, Emmett Shipman.
City efforts to buy the land fell apart a year ago when Ryan said the agency's offer of $650,000 was not enough.
In response, the agency notified Ryan and Shipman that it would seek to acquire the land through eminent domain, but agency members have postponed action several times.
Ryan said Shipman inspected more than 15 new sites, but could not find a suitable one. Shipman has also said that moving Ship's was impractical and would destroy the original terrazzo floors and tiled interior walls.