The Christmas trees being sold on the lot at Palos Verdes Drive North and Western Avenue in Lomita have not put Nick Papadakis in the holiday spirit.
Papadakis, a real estate agent who represents the co-owners of the lot--his parents, Tom and Angie Papadakis, and East Palos Verdes Properties--claims that the city has leased the property without their consent.
But the leasing is only part of a larger problem, according to Papadakis, who said he has an offer to sell the land for commercial development and divide the profit 50-50 with the city, but the city doesn't seem interested in talking about it.
The money would be the city's share from the sale of the 28,000-square-foot lot at the southwest corner of the intersection. Although Papadakis' clients own the land, the city has rights of way on Palos Verdes Drive North and Western Avenue that encompass the entire lot.
Before the property can be sold for commercial development, the city must give up its rights of way, the owners have told the city.
City Administrator Walker Ritter said this week that city officials are trying to decide whether to hold on to the land, which might be needed for future widening of either of the roads.
"We've been asked to vacate it before," Ritter said. "At this point we've determined that it's a right-of-way road that may be needed for widening."
Lomita Mayor Robert T. Hargrave said Los Angeles County officials have indicated they may expand the nearby Harbor Hills housing project, and the city needs to study the impact of that potential expansion on area traffic patterns.
The city has leased the land to Christmas tree vendors for the past five years, but this is the first time the owners have raised objections, Hargrave said. The city charges a nominal fee to lease the land, which they would be willing to split with the owners if requested, he said.
Douglas R. Ring, the lawyer for the Papadakis family and for the owners of East Palos Verdes Properties, Darrell Dudley and Halldis Ostrum, said his clients approached the city in April, 1986, to request that the city give up its rights of way, and again four months ago with an offer to split the profits from the sale with the city.
"The response has been silence," Ring said. "I've never seen anything like this before. We're trying to give the city money and we can't get a response."
At the City Council meeting Monday, Papadakis told council members that the owners have an offer of $850,000 to sell the land for commercial development, of which the city's share would be about $325,000 after the owners paid taxes and other expenses.
He asked the council to come to a decision by Jan. 1 or the owners would "seek other remedies."
"We're frustrated that the city has been unresponsive," Papadakis said. "Not a yes, not a no, only silence. We take that as rejection."
But Ritter said the city has responded to letters and phone calls from Ring. "I may not be telling them what they want to hear, but I answered them," he said.
Hargrave said that although there had been "somewhat of a delay" in deciding about the city giving up its encumbrance on the land, it was a "normal" delay.
"We had research to do in terms of the legal aspects," he said. "The delays were justified, but he thinks they weren't. I don't think they were extreme." Monday's meeting was the first time the council had been approached with a concrete offer, he said.
Ritter said the property was dedicated to the County of Los Angeles during World War II when the road was put in. The City of Lomita later annexed the property from the county, he said.
Papadakis said his parents and the East Palos Verdes Properties group have owned the land since 1972.