MONTEBELLO — A feud between the Holiday Spa Health Club and neighboring businesses and residents over a 449-space parking lot erupted this week when more than 500 residents and spa members packed City Hall during a public hearing to consider shutting down the club.
The council decided that closing the club was too drastic and instead voted unanimously to force the club to alleviate a severe parking shortage by adding more spaces to the Beverly-Wilcox Shopping Center lot that it shares with about 20 other businesses.
Council members Arnold Alvarez-Glasman and Art Payan rebuked Holiday Spa representatives and the Hofstadter family that owns 60% of the shopping center for failing to resolve the parking issue.
"I'm concerned that the City Council chambers were used to solve a problem which probably should have been solved in the courts," Payan said. "It is time to remove this from the political arena."
Angry residents told the council that along with huge workout centers equipped with the latest in fitness technology, the corporation has brought to Montebello an arrogant attitude toward the neighborhood.
Since the club opened in May, 1989, residents and some business people who share the shopping center parking lot with the club have complained that the spa, in search of greater profits, has allowed too many people to join without providing adequate parking. As a result, residents said, Holiday Spa patrons have taken over the parking lot, harming the business of the other shopping center tenants and disrupting life in the neighborhoods around the center.
In addition to restriping the lot to add 82 parking spaces, the council voted to force the spa to reduce noise and congestion in the shopping center neighborhood and repair the asphalt in the lot.
The Hofstadter family, as majority owner, must approve the restriping of the lot. If the family refuses to approve the restriping, the council has threatened to eliminate 77 reserved parking spaces used by Hofstadter tenants.
Mark Hofstadter, who said he had hoped the council would force the club to build a parking garage, said he was shocked by the council's decision: "The council gave us a choice between a slow death by watching our businesses dwindle because there is not enough room to park, even with 82 more spaces, or a quick death by letting the spa take over the lot immediately."
Holiday Spa representatives, who had already agreed to add parking spaces, praised the council's action and criticized councilman William Molinari and some residents for "politicizing" the issue.
"I think we were only here tonight because certain members of this community and one councilman created a political issue," said Holiday Spa's attorney, Louis J. Khoury.
Khoury said 2,400 members of the spa had signed a "Stop Bill Molinari" petition because they believe he wants to shut down the club.
Molinari said during the meeting that he never wanted to close the spa and that he was doing his job as a councilman when he helped neighbors concerned about traffic congestion and noise from spa patrons.
Elcie Eckman, who has lived in the neighborhood behind the spa for more than 30 years, angrily denounced Payan for saying the issue had become political.
"This is not political," she said. "This is my life. Thirty-five years of my life have gone down the drain because of that club."
Holiday Spa attorney Khoury said that the problem is much less severe than the one painted by the Hofstadter family and that the family has a "hidden agenda" to shut the club down.
"The Hofstadter family will not rest until the Holiday Spa is forced out of the center," he told the council.
Hofstadter and his mother, Charlotte, denied that they plan to force the spa to close and said they just want the parking situation resolved.
The council voted to give the Hofstadter family 30 days to give their written consent to the restriping of the parking lot.