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WESTSIDE WATCH

If the Mall Makes Money, It Could Be Magic

September 26, 1993

Showtime redux: Last month, Earvin (Magic) Johnson agreed to a deal that would bring movies to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Now he seems to be thinking of becoming the producer-director for the entire mall.

Officials at Alexander Haagen Co., the mall's developer, and spokesmen for Johnson confirm that the former Lakers star has broached the possibility of buying or otherwise taking over the shopping center.

"Some interest has been expressed but there's nothing definitive at this time," said Fred Bruning, chief of staff for Haagen. Added Johnson spokesman Lon Rosen: "It's something that he's discussed with Mr. Haagen but it hasn't progressed very far at this point."

Bruning said Johnson is proceeding cautiously, and it may be many months before he decides whether to go ahead. One reason for hesitation could be that the mall, according to Bruning, has lost "multiple millions of dollars" since it opened in 1989.

Might Johnson's presence help persuade the affluent residents of Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw to shop there? Critics have long said better merchandise and shops are needed for that to happen. Haagen officials hope the cineplex will be a big plus, drawing about 10,000 more shoppers per week to the mall.

Meanwhile, Bruning said, the cineplex lease with Johnson is being worked out, with some details already settled: In addition to the theaters, the 50,000-square-foot space will contain a restaurant and a Magic Johnson's clothing store.

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Is he a pal of Simon Garfunkel?Los Angeles Councilman Nate Holden, whose comments have been known to enliven the dullest of hearings, was the lone dissenter Tuesday when the council voted 10 to 1 to approve the first stage of the giant Playa Vista development.

But Holden emphasized that his opposition in no way diminished his esteem for developer Maguire Thomas Partners, which is headed by founders Robert F. Maguire and James A. Thomas.

"I don't have anything against Maguire Thomas," Holden said. "He's a friend of mine. I've known him for 20 years."

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One year and counting: The anniversary of Robert M. Myers' firing came and went a few weeks ago, and Santa Monica is still without a permanent city attorney.

There was some speculation that a decision might finally be made when the City Council returned recently from its one-month summer hiatus, but the fractious council has continued to balk at choosing between two finalists--Joseph Lawrence, the acting city attorney, and Matthew St. George, a Los Angeles prosecutor.

As best as can be pieced together from sources who seek anonymity (this is a hush-hush personnel matter), here's where things stand:

What didn't happen during the break was the emergence of a fifth vote for St. George. Previously, he was supported by Mayor Judy Abdo and Council members Paul Rosenstein, Asha Greenberg and Robert T. Holbrook.

Although four votes is enough to select someone, Abdo wanted a candidate who had a stronger mandate. She also was being pressured by leaders of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, the tenants organization that dominates city politics, to refrain from picking a candidate unless at least three of the five council members allied with SMRR were behind the winner.

But three of the SMRR council members--Tony Vazquez, Ken Genser and Kelly Olsen--have continued to stick with Lawrence.

The likely next step is that a few new candidates will be considered--and St. George and Lawrence will be kept dangling for a while.

One person watching the untidy hiring process with disdain is Myers. In an opinion piece in a local weekly paper, Myers skewered his former council bosses last week, saying the delay proved their "ineptness at managing our city."

Myers said the council was acting politically, rather than in the city's best interests. "The end result of this type of decision making is that we witness the council's bumbling efforts on a wide range of issues."

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Pizza update: Ron Taylor, the Santa Monica dumpster diver who has been feeding his fellow homeless souls by redeeming Domino's "Value Dots" for free pizza, has branched out to hamburgers.

His newest plan involves collecting yellow bottle caps from large bottles of Coca-Cola, which are redeemable for free burgers at Carl's Jr.

Taylor said he doesn't expect the new promotion to yield anything like the scores of pizzas he distributed during the summer by scrounging in the trash for discarded Domino's coupons. But the burgers will be a nice change of diet, he said.

Since Taylor's story of feeding the homeless with free pizza ran in The Times a week ago, he has been interviewed by Canadian radio and local television.

And the Santa Monica city attorney's office, which helped Taylor persuade Domino's not to cut off the promotion, received some "Value Dots" in the mail from some sympathetic folks who wanted Taylor to have them for his pizza feeding mission.

Yellow bottle caps, anyone?

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