The Business Journal published an article today about a development proposal for the old Saving Center building on Watt at Whitney. The site is a poster child for the County's neglect of our community, The building has been left to rot for decades. The County just stood by and let it get uglier and dirtier every year. Why? They did not want to, you know, "interfere" with the property owner's business plans. The invisible hand of the free market was made the caretaker of the site, while the invisible foot of the free market kicked the public interest to the curb. Yet, indeed, there IS a public interest. When you let a commercial building gather dust on one of your community's main streets, you are advertising for the whole world to see that your community isn't worthwhile. What a great message to send to local residents, local businesses, and prospective commercial and residential tenants. It says failure with The Vision Thing (again). It screams neglect. It is a blatant reminder that the County General Plan for our community is way out of date. It's a typical dumb land use decision. And it's how the County rolls.
"Something is better than nothing" has been the County's economic development mantra for at least the last 40 years. That theme has been implemented down at County Hall by having staff just wait around for someone - anyone - to walk up to the Planning Department with a get-rich-for-me idea, however underwhelming, however misguided, however out of touch with the community. And now, they're doing it again. This time the County is rolling over for a storage business. You usually see this kind of business on the fringes of a community - next to the railroad tracks or the freeway. You usually don't see them smack in the middle of a community. Except here in Arden Arcade, of course, because our community doesn't matter to the Supervisors. We are blessed with storage places in residential areas like on Howe at Wyda or on Marconi at Norris. Looks like we're going to be blessed with another one where the Saving Center used to be.
According to the Business Journal article, a Granite Bay real estate investment company bought the 1.61 acre site for a song last October ($2.15M) and has talked a Santa Monica-based self-storage
development corporation into building a multi-story storage business there. Great for those not-from-here developers. Maybe not so great for our community. You wouldn't want more housing here, huh? You wouldn't dare think about a mixed-use commercial development either, would you? Not artist lofts or tech start-ups or business incubators, or anything like that. No, what our community really, really needs is a place to put your parents stuff so you can move them into "The Place" or maybe while you have their house staged for sale after you inherit it. Oh, wait, that's not what our community needs, that's what people who don't live here need. What OUR community needs is another liquor store. Or another discount retail store. Like the Saving Center. OK,OK, probably a little too snarky there.
Look, we know storage places meet needs. And maybe there aren't enough of them. But they employ very few people and they generate zero sales taxes, so they aren't exactly lucrative economic development plums. The basic message they send about a community is, "This is where you should leave your stuff" with maybe some undertones about hoarders being welcomed. That's exactly what you want across the street from a struggling strip mall and backing up to condos, houses and apartments, isn't it? Um...no. What can we do about it? Next to nothing because of the way the County caters to commercial properties like this. There's really only one way to stop this kind of disrespect for our lowly unincorporated nothingness of a community, isn't there? And that way doesn't involve County Planning staff and the County Planning Commission, does it? Right. Now go back to whatever you were doing.