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As Downtown Goes Upscale, Thrift Annex Gets the Boot

September 22, 2003|Karin Grennan | Special to The Times

A thrift store annex in downtown Ojai is slated for demolition today, ending a battle between city officials who called it a hazardous eyesore and owners who wanted to retain its income for a local church.

After Richard and Marilyn Malloy of Ventura received notice from the city of Ojai ordering them to tear down the St. Thomas Aquinas Thrift Shop annex, they filed an appeal Sept. 11, said their son, Bill Malloy of Redding.

But the Malloys changed their minds a week ago and hired a contractor to tear it down. "This was taking a very heavy toll on [my father's] health," Bill Malloy said. "He is approaching 80 ... and it was just a little too much and he decided his health was more important than fighting City Hall."

The St. Thomas Aquinas Thrift Shop on Ojai Avenue has sold used clothes, books and kitchenware out of a main building and its 470-square-foot annex for more than 30 years.

As renovations began on the Ojai Arcade in 2002, city officials became concerned about the appearance of the annex, housed in a shed adjacent to the group of upscale boutiques and art galleries.

City officials said the original owners never obtained permits for the tin shed, and the structure doesn't meet current codes.

The walls, surrounded by bamboo and weathered wood, are not attached to a foundation, and honeysuckle vines cover the roof.

The Malloys, members of St. Thomas Aquinas Church for 30 years, had refused the city's requests to demolish the structure out of loyalty to the parish, Bill Malloy said.

The annex provides nearly half of the store's retail space, and church officials estimate that closing it will cut the store's monthly profit of $2,600 by a third.

The Malloys contended that the structure was safe, having survived three decades of earthquakes and winds. The city's stance also outraged some residents who opposed efforts to make the downtown buildings look more uniform.

Bill Malloy said the church had asked about the possibility of building a new annex in exchange for a long-term lease for the thrift store, but church leaders aren't sure they can afford it.

City Manager Dan Singer said the community development director wants to begin talking with the owners about plans for the lot this week. "We're interested in seeing something permanent developed there," Singer said. "It is prime real estate in the downtown."

Manager Dorothy Rice cleared out the shed's inventory last week by cutting the price on everything to 10 cents. She dreads today's planned demolition. "I will be upset when it starts coming down," said Rice, who has worked in the shop for 18 years. "It's not going to be good."

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