WEST COVINA — Development proposals often elicit vocal opposition, but in the case of a project proposed for Garvey Avenue, the City Council is asking the opposition to put its money where its mouth is.
The council recently voted 4 to 0 to delay action on plans to build a two-story office building on a vacant half-acre site along the San Bernardino Freeway so that opponents of the project would have a chance to buy the land themselves.
Councilman Forest Tennant suggested that the council wait until Nov. 23 to decide whether to approve the project, proposed by developers Jack Mazmanian and Harry Mooradian. In the meantime, neighboring business owners who are against the project would try to buy the land to keep it as open space.
Would Block View
The owners of Crestview Cadillac and the adjacent Country Club Shopping Center complain that the building would block freeway motorists' view of their establishments and increase traffic congestion. The city Planning Commission has rejected the proposal twice because of its size and the effect it would have on traffic patterns.
Mel Young, owner of Crestview Cadillac, said he would be interested in buying the land if the price were right and if other businesses and the city would join him as partners in the deal.
Before Tennant suggested that opponents try to buy the land, council members Robert Bacon, Nancy Manners and Chet Shearer all expressed support for the project. Tennant has been the lone opponent. Mayor Kenneth Chappell, who has sold insurance to Mazmanian, has abstained from voting because of a potential conflict of interest.
Young said that if the office building is constructed, his dealership may lose business, meaning that the city would lose sales tax revenue.
"I don't think the city is considering how much damage that would do to the dealership, blocking (the view of) it with a two-story building," Young said.
And Tennant argued that open space is valuable, both to private interests and to the city.
"If people want a nice community and they want open spaces, they have to spend the money to buy the property and preserve it," Tennant said. "I just do not believe we have to take the San Gabriel Valley and make it a concrete jungle."
George Kasem, attorney for Mazmanian and Mooradian, said his clients were surprised by Tennant's idea. Kasem said the developers have significantly modified the project to win council approval and believe that they can get a majority of the council members to support the current design.
"We are in the process of negotiating with the other side, (but) we don't really want to sell," Kasem said.
Both Young and Kasem are dubious about the chances of agreeing on a price. Young has said the developers paid too much when they bought the property in 1985 for $190,000. Kasem said it would take an irresistible offer to make his clients part with the parcel.
"We're a thousand miles apart," Kasem said. "At one point, we were willing to take $350,000, but now we just want to go forward with the project."
Young said: "If that's their stance, as far as the cost of the property, no, I don't think (an agreement) will happen."
Tennant is more optimistic. Considering the opposition, he said, the developers may decide that it is more cost-effective to sell the property than to fight it out.
"I'm betting 50-50. I think it could go either way," Tennant said. "I don't know how amenable (Mazmanian and Mooradian) will be. They've heard the arguments that people in the community want green belts and open space. I think they heard that loud and clear."