COMPTON — The City Council has granted a truck firm exclusive rights to negotiate for use of two parcels of land that housing advocates had sought for a low-income housing development.
The acting city manager warned the council in a memo Tuesday that its decision adversely affects a previous council mandate to seek a major commercial developer for the site in the Compton Auto Plaza.
About 25 acres at the auto plaza are vacant, and the council's decision last week granted Mack Truck sales and service franchise the negotiating rights to buy or lease about 12 acres.
Would Bar Development
If the negotiations are successful, there would not be enough land remaining for a commercial development such as a shopping center, entertainment complex or a wholesale and retrail electronics mart, Acting City Manager Howard Caldwell said in the memo,
The council had said it preferred such options on Aug. 22 when it directed the city's Redevelopment Agency to send out requests for proposals from developers interested in the site alongside the 91 Freeway.
But in a surprise move last week, the council gave the Mack Truck franchise an exclusive, 90-day right to negotiate for two parcels at the north end of the auto plaza along Greenleaf Boulevard.
The South Central Organizing Committee (SCOC), a community activist group, has been pressing the city to hand over those parcels free for a proposed owner-occupied, low-income housing development.
The council has repeatedly rejected the committee's bid for the land, saying the site should be used for commercial development that will provide jobs and tax revenues. SCOC leaders say they are undaunted by the council action to open negotiations with Mack Truck, and will continue their drive to gather 20,000 signatures on petitions that they plan to deliver to the council Oct. 3. The petitions will demand that the council give the land up for the housing development.
Rejected Move on Chevrolet Site
Earlier, the council had also rejected requests from the Mack franchise to buy the old Bret Mitchell Chevrolet property in the plaza. Mitchell took title to the property from the city last fall, but closed his business soon afterward, defaulting on both his city mortgage and city loans. The council contends that because he defaulted, the property reverts to the city and that Mitchell has no right to sell it and make a profit.
There is only one dealership left in the auto plaza, which the city had opened a decade ago with the hope that dozens of dealers would move to the site because of its easy freeway access.
The council took no action Tuesday on Caldwell's memo, in which the acting city manager said he postponed sending out requests for proposals to developers this week. At its Aug. 22 meeting to discuss the future of the site, the council told the Redevelopment Agency to ready the requests as soon as possible.
Caldwell said after the council meeting Tuesday that he does not know what the council wants him to do now. "That's what I was asking them tonight," he said.
Councilwoman Patricia Moore cast the only vote last week against the decision to grant exclusive negotiating rights to Mack. In an interview this week, she said she was stunned that her council colleagues decided to negotiate with Mack after telling staff to solicit other development proposals for the auto plaza land.
"That is not the highest and best use of that land because it does not support the hotel," Moore said. The Compton Lazben Hotel, a joint project between the city and a private developer, sits alongside the southeast corner of the auto plaza land.
"I think we could have a retail mall or some kind of entertainment center there," Moore said. "We're in the situation where we're right on the (freeway) corridor there."
But Councilman Maxcy Filer said in an interview Tuesday that he believes the truck franchise is an appropriate option. A longtime critic of the Redevelopment Agency staff and its policies, Filer has said previously that the city could find more auto dealers willing to locate in the plaza.
As for agency suggestions that it could get other kinds of commercial development, such as a shopping center, for the site, Filer said, "For 10 years CRA (Compton Redevelopment Agency) has had this and it's done nothing with it."