HAWAIIAN GARDENS — After a year of searching for a new home, the U. S. Postal Service has found a potential site for its crowded Hawaiian Gardens branch. But city officials say they have other plans for the property, which is slated for commercial redevelopment.
"We need something there that's going to generate tax dollars for the city," Mayor Rosalie Sher said. "This is a commercial site and we'd like to develop it that way."
The 2.7-acre site on Centralia Avenue and Norwalk Boulevard was occupied by Albertson's grocery store, which in July moved to the Town Center--the city's largest retail development.
Since August, postal officials have been negotiating with Albertson's to lease the site so they can move from their office in a small commercial center about half a mile south on Norwalk Boulevard. The new post office site would be more than 15 times the size of the present site.
"We are horrendously overcrowded," said Debra Townsend, manager of support services in the U. S. Postal Service's Long Beach branch. "We've been looking for about a year and this is the only available site that we've been able to find. It looks like Albertson's will lease that property to us and we're very interested."
Townsend said she thought the plan had the blessings of city officials, but City Council members maintain that they were not informed of the proposal. Last week the council sent letters to several local legislators expressing their concern.
"We heard about this on hearsay earlier this month," Councilman Richard O. Vineyard said. "My view is that we should be involved with finding a usage for the site. This is a very important corner in our city."
The city would stand to lose tax revenue because post offices and other government agencies are tax exempt and do not produce sales taxes. However, Redevelopment Director Darwin G. Pichetto said it is too early to determine how much the city could lose.
Away From City Center
Although the site--which borders Lakewood and is across the street from a small commercial center and a gas station--is about half a mile from the heart of the city's downtown area and is not considered a prime location, Pichetto said the land is important to the city's redevelopment plan.
"In a big city, moving one small post office is a minor occurrence," Pichetto said. "But when you take a small city like Hawaiian Gardens and it's the only post office, then it is a significant matter. We need to develop whatever available land we've got."
Townsend stressed that negotiations with Albertson's are preliminary and that much depends on whether the Hawaiian Gardens branch will receive the necessary funding from the Western Region Postmaster General's office.
"Things look really good for us, but we're not ready to make any reports to the council yet," she said.
Post office officials are expected to present their plans to the council later this month, Townsend said.