Culver City bills itself as "The Heart of Screenland," but to many people "The Heart of Fast-Food Land" would be just as appropriate.
"We're kind of the fast-food capital of the world," said Councilman Richard M. Alexander. "I mean, you can have take-out chicken in 47 different ways."
The Redevelopment Agency is trying to change this image and find relief for local workers and residents fed up with food from a paper bucket or Styrofoam shell.
The agency, which doubles as the City Council, last week chose the Jacmar Companies, Alhambra-based restaurant operators, to recruit four or five "quality-type" restaurants for a site on Slauson Avenue near the Fox Hills Mall.
An agency survey showed that there are not enough sit-down restaurants in the area to serve office workers and residents, according to Deborah L. Rich, a redevelopment project specialist.
"We felt the need to attract restaurants into the area to fill that need," Rich said. The 4.5-acre site, mostly vacant, is bordered by Slauson, Hannum and Knightsbridge Avenue.
Jacmar, which the staff recommended as the best of six firms vying for the brokerage, will lease the site from the agency, market it and secure signed leases from restaurants, according to the agency's staff report.
The firm, which owns a nearby Shakey's pizza parlor, is also responsible for the plans and development of the site.
Jim Dal Pozzo, a Jacmar vice president, said the company hopes to attract restaurants such as Rusty Pelican, Sizzler and Lawry's to the site.
Jacmar, which owns 19 Shakey's franchises in California as well as Shakey's, Sizzler and Taco Bell franchises in Guam, is targeting chain operations because of the large financial investments needed to build and start restaurants, Dal Pozzo said.
"We're talking about large restaurants 6,000 square feet and up. We obviously want experienced operators in there," Dal Pozzo said. "But it doesn't mean we're not going to consider someone who has one or two restaurants currently."
Alexander, who called himself a "gourmet ignoramus," said he would be happy with a Marie Callendar's or Lawry's--a place "you can take your family to and have a good meal."
Mayor Richard Brundo also said he is not necessarily looking for gourmet food, simply restaurants that are "not fast-food, not buffet, but sit-down, quality restaurants."
"Culver City has needed a number of quality restaurants for a number of years," he said. "That's not to say there aren't any quality restaurants in the area. There are, but not in sufficient numbers."
"We're hopeful that this will solve the problem," he said.
Rich said it will be a 18 months to two years before the first restaurant opens.