Residents of South Carthay want to give you the business--that is, if you're a supermarket willing to move into a vacant store at La Cienega and Pico boulevards.
In an unusual show of community spirit, residents have joined forces with the owner of the corner lot to attract a full-service grocery store in the area bounded by Pico, La Cienega, Crescent Heights and Olympic boulevards.
South Carthay has been without a local supermarket for about three weeks, since Big Town's lease ran out and was not renewed.
A petition signed by 800 potential customers, along with personal letters and a slick packet containing an oversize photograph and demographic information on the neighborhood, has been sent to more than 75 hand-picked businesses, mainly markets.
"We'll give you the business," reads the caption under the picture of 250 residents taken on one of the area's broad, palm-tree-lined streets. In the background are the red tile roofs and stucco exteriors of the Spanish Colonial Revival homes of the 1930s that make the South Carthay area, less than a quarter of a square mile in size, one of two Historic Preservation Overlay Zones in Los Angeles.
Historic Preservation Overlay Zones were created by the city in 1979 to protect areas containing significant historical, architectural or cultural features from demolition or alteration. Angeleno Heights, east of Echo Park Lake, is the other zone in Los Angeles.
'I've never seen anything like the efforts of these (South Carthay) residents," said Robert McCoy, marketing analyst for Arden Group Inc., which owns Mayfair and Gelson's and is considering opening a store on the site. "Usually, it's strictly between the developer and us."
Behind the push for a market is the South Carthay Neighborhood Assn., an organization with 350 families which is no stranger to activism. Since it was formed six years ago by several psychologists who lived there, the association has won most of its battles.
In 1985, the association's efforts led to the designation of South Carthay as a historic zone. Recently, a city committee established to oversee the neighborhood's preservation rejected a proposal to tear down two French chateau apartment buildings on Olympic Boulevard and replace them with a modern, three-story apartment complex with an underground parking lot. "We want to preserve the '30s around us," said Fred Naiditch, 55, former president of the association. "Each house is an adventure."
More than a third of the neighborhood's 300 houses were designed and built by Spyros George Ponty, according to Alma Karlisle, architectural
associate for the city of Los Angeles.
Ponty, 86, a resident of Bel-Air, said he originally sold the 137 homes he built for between $8,500 and $12,500. Today, the homes are worth $200,000 to $400,000, according to real estate agent Joy Hudson.
South Carthay's status as a historic zone does not apply to commercial properties, but that didn't prevent members of the neighborhood association from trying to persuade Sam Ghodsian, owner of the vacant market, to restore rather than replace it with a modern building.
The supermarket saga began about six months ago when residents heard that Big Town's lease would not be renewed and that Ghodsian was planning to remodel the market and two other stores he owns on the corner lot, as well as the 15 other small stores he owns on La Cienega Boulevard north of Pico.
Concerned about the impact of development and the possibility of a mini-mall in their neighborhood, association members met with Ghodsian's leasing agent and learned of preliminary plans to subdivide the market into smaller shops.
"He showed us horrible remodeling plans--just like the ones you see on every corner all over the city--the kind with a cleaners, fast-food place and a video arcade," said Cathy Furer, 33, a language teacher who moved into the neighborhood eight years ago and is one of its most avid supporters.
The number of mini-malls on the Westside has increased by 60% in the last two years, said Daniel Scott, a West Los Angeles city planner. The proliferation has not been unique to the Westside, but the area has been affected more than others because of its already severe traffic and parking problems, he said.
South Carthay residents were not only opposed to mini-malls, they also wanted a higher quality supermarket than the one whose lease was not renewed. Eight complaints against that market were filed with the county Environmental Health Department in the last 2 1/2 years, according to Charles McMullen, chief sanitarian.
The age of the building seemed to make it prone to cockroach and mouse infestation, he said.
"Everyone loathed going in there," said Shelley Dominguez, 49, an actress who has lived in South Carthay for 41 years. "It was the kind of place you dropped in only for last-minute things."
But many older residents who do not drive patronized the market, Dominguez said.