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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Planners Block Newhall Pawnshop : Business: Santa Clarita commissioners say store would not fit into efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Some merchants call it better than nothing.


SANTA CLARITA — The city's gambit to revitalize Newhall has blocked a pawnshop's move into the downtown community.

"I don't think this type of business would uplift the area (or help) what we are trying to do," Planning Commissioner Louis Brathwaite said.

The commission voted 3 to 0 Tuesday night to deny a minor use permit for the store, echoing residents' concerns that it would continue a deterioration of the Newhall community. Commissioners Jerry Cherrington and Dave Doughman were absent.

Santa Clarita hopes to draw businesses and consumers back into Newhall, the Santa Clarita Valley's premier community until the 1960s. The city hired Jeff Oberdorfer and Associates, of Santa Cruz, for $35,000 to develop a plan and the urban planning firm will report to the City Council next week.

Preliminary interviews with merchants, residents, senior citizens, city staffers and local historical society members in June called for emphasizing Newhall's Western heritage, giving face lifts to existing businesses, encouraging more shopping, and developing a commuter rail station.

Some Newhall and Placerita Canyon residents say a pawnshop isn't in keeping with the image the community wishes to project.

"There is a lot of interest here, but I don't think having more pawnshops, liquor stores, second-hand stores and tattoo parlors is going to revitalize this area," said Christopher Townsley, a Placerita Canyon resident.

Nandor Kiss hoped to expand his Santa Clarita Valley Pawn Brokers from Canyon Country into Newhall, where he says many of his customers live. The shop was to operate out of a former sporting goods store building southeast of San Fernando Road and 8th Street.

Pawnshops provide four-month loans in exchange for collateral. They in turn sell forfeited goods and other used merchandise such as jewelry, musical instruments or guns.

Kiss rejected the reputation that pawnshops deal with criminals or stolen goods, describing his customers as middle-class citizens. He said customers must be 18 or older, demonstrate proof of ownership for what they are selling and are subject to a 15-day waiting period if purchasing a firearm.

"It provides a service well needed in the community," Kiss said. "I think it's in ignorance to believe pawnshops deal only in drug dealers and low life."

Fueling the arguments both for and against the store is the presence of two other pawnbrokers in Newhall, including one directly next door to the proposed shop.

"What we need are bakeries, cute little cafes," Newhall resident Ann Irvine said. "What we don't need is a fifth place on San Fernando Road selling handguns--six if you're talking about shotguns."

Rick Sill, owner of the adjacent Abe's Newhall Pawn Shop, argued that the local economy won't support another store like his.

"I feel a concentration of any business in an area is not good for revitalization," Sill said.

Some merchants offered limited support for the new pawnshop, calling it a step above no business at all. "It is better to have an occupant than an empty building subject to graffiti and vandalism," said Jack Arnold, a Newhall property owner.

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