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Owner Refuses to Shut Down : Gun Gallery Resists Pier Pressure

May 17, 1987|JAY GOLDMAN | Times Staff Writer

It's high noon on the Santa Monica Pier.

Pier officials last March gave John E. Brown, owner of the Shooting Gallery BB-gun target range, 60 days to get his business off the pier. They said Brown's month-to-month lease was canceled because the structural supports under his business had deteriorated and are not safe.

City engineers have determined that before they can repair the damaged supports, the building Brown leases must be demolished.

But Brown's 60 days are up and he refuses to go.

"We're still there and open and plan to contest the eviction," Brown said. "I've been under there and I know the pier is not dangerous." And an engineer he hired confirmed that there are no structural problems under his business, he said.

Points to Income

Brown said that pier officials want him to move because his 16-year-old business is not generating enough rent. Brown pays 15% of his revenues, which were $60,000 last year, as rent.

"We would not be taking this action if it wasn't for the public-safety issue," said Gail E. Markens, Pier Restoration Corp. director.

Brown said he would not contest his eviction if he could stay through the prime summer business season, receive relocation expenses and consideration for space on the pier when it is available. But he said pier officials have not responded to his offer.

Markens said there is no space on the pier for relocating Brown's business and that he cannot stay through the summer because repairs must begin as soon as possible.

"We are concerned about the continued structural integrity of the area," Markens said. "And the city has advised us that we have to move quickly."

Markens said Brown's eviction notice had nothing to do with how much rent he pays the Restoration Corp. "The goal of the corporation in respect to our development program is to incorporate as many of the existing (pier) tenants as we can," she said "But we are forced by circumstances, the physical condition of the platform, to (evict Brown)."

Santa Monica's pier, a fashionable and popular attraction in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, had evolved into a collection of mostly low-budget gift shops, food stands, arcades and restaurants by the early 1980s. The pier, which still attracts more than 2 million people a year, was battered by storms in 1983 that destroyed more than half of the structure.

But Santa Monica came back with a $12-million plan to repair and rebuild the pier. Phase 1, which consists of reinforcing the surviving portion of the pier, should be completed soon.

And work to replace about 45,000 square feet of the southeast part of the pier will begin this fall, Markens said. A 420-foot-long seaward portion of the pier will be replaced late next year.

The rebuilding of the pier will also include a doubling of the 75,000 square feet now used by pier businesses. Markens said the Restoration Corp. is working on a plan for the new space that will allow the pier to retain many of its moderately priced businesses while adding some upscale restaurants and shops that can restore some of the luster the pier had in the past.

Markens said long-term leases will be offered to businesses once the Restoration Corp. has completed its development plan for the pier.

"The goal is to have a wide range of uses and prices" on the pier, she said. "The criteria being established (in the development plan) will lean favorably toward accommodating the existing tenants and giving them an opportunity to participate in the pier."

And the plan, which will be ready in about three months, will not be implemented until it has been approved by the City Council.

"Nothing will be decided behind closed doors," Markens said. "It will be aired publicly."

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