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Blog: The Curious Case of The Foothill Park Plaza

One of Monrovia's premier shopping destinations for residents has been abandoned by merchants and occupied by a platoon of addicts and thugs. It's time for action.

Author's Note: The evolution of the electronic media cycle has changed media, business and politics forever.  Take a few extra minutes to publish some earth-shattering insights, and you're soon racing to catch-up. Exhibit A: this post.

First conceived a couple of months ago, and fleshed out with details in recent days, I sat down Saturday to finalize and publish it, only to find I'm quasi-beaten to the punch by a City press release.  But, while the local government's inquiries on what residents would like to re-populate the Pavilions shopping center are a sign of awareness, the question of how this center came to be in such a state remains relevant.

So, I give you: The Curious Case of The Foothill Park Plaza 

Have you ever wanted tips on beating a heroin arrest?  Would you like insights on methods to conceal drinking in public on a weekday afternoon?  Have you ever wanted to be randomly engaged in conversation by a Bible-thumping transvestite?  Is watching a woman engage in a screaming match with no one else how you'd like to start your Sunday morning.

If any of these activities float your boat, then the Foothill Park Plaza at the corner of Myrtle and Foothill should be your home port.  I've witnessed all of them in just the last year or so.  The Pavilions shopping center has slowly degenerated over the last several years to the point that is becoming not just an eye sore, but a creepy hangout for deranged and violent individuals.  

Though I live just a few hunderd yards away, I no longer walk to the center after dark. The assortment of gangsters, thugs, addicts and homeless people crowding the approach to Pavillions from the West makes it ill advised.  Not to mention the same crowd on the West stairs and sleeping in the bushes along Primrose.

In recent months, I've had several conversations with Monrovia PD officers about the degeneration of the center, and heard tales of its cast of characters who have later been captured for various offenses, including assault and auto theft.  Just reading the stay-away orders post on the doors to Pavilions is something of a parlor game.

The problem with the center, however, is not just the riff-raff who make the place feel like its closer to Skid Row than the Gold Hills.  The real problem is a management team, Westar Associates (www.westarassociates.com) which insults tenants and apparently stopped reading the news before the real estate bubble collapsed.  In my discussions with local merchants, I've been told remarkable horror stories of a land lord who has tried to raise rents on expiring leases, even as those merchants presented lower-cost offers from competing properties.

The list of businesses that have vacated Foothill Park is breath taking:

On the East wing:
- Card store
- Chiropractor 

West wing:
- Dentist

Primrose wing:
- Mailing store
- Eyeglasses store
- Dry cleaners (downsized to smaller space)
- Hair Salon

In essence, the West side of the plaza has become something of a ghost town.

Worse, though my efforts to gain confirmation were rebuffed without comment by store management, I've been told by several credible sources that one of the major national-brand eateries and a second large tenant have informed Westar that they will not renew their leases. According to Westar's Web site, it's a 37-property firm with nearly a billion dollars in assets. One must wonder if that valuation is based on the same metrics which led them to think struggling small businesses would pay more rent in a struggling center.  Regardless of their success in 36 other places, this one is a blight and a failure and someone needs to do something about it before it gets creepier or someone gets hurt.

I don't know what role the City had in the development of this center or if it was part of the early redevelopment efforts.  And, clearly, getting tenants for a privately-run property is no more the job of the City than is getting customers for any other business.

But, Foothill Park Plaza is on the verge of becoming a blight and a danger. And, no, the addition of a new Weight Watchers (ironically located right next to the frozen yogurt shop), will not really help.  Those customers are unlikely to patronize barbecue, ice cream or pastry businesses after they do their transactions.

Part of the problem lies in the leeway given to the riff raff who occupy the walkways.  If Pavillions management were to remove the generally obsolete pay phones and put locks on the electrical outlets many of the homeless use to get free cell phone charging, some of it would go away.

But, in the final analysis, getting new tenants and repopulating the center with people who don't hide their 40-ounce beer in the bushes (second planter on the right as you enter from Primrose, just look for folks at a Subway table with no sandwiches) will only happen when Westar Associates is convinced that good tenants paying a modest rent is better than mythical tenants not paying a cent.

The City should do whatever it can to motivate Westar to attract and retain quality tenants at a market-competitive price. Aggressively and pro-actively (but Constitutionally) motivating the platoon of crazies, thugs and addicts to go elsewhere would be a good first step.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

sayitisntso October 02, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I agree with all you have said. There is one thing that can be done that will get action from the owners and management company. I think you could organize a safe streets lawsuit against them. The city of Pasadena has a web page for info and an assistance group. http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/HumanServices/Safe_Streets_Now/ I know that our city will assist you in this endeavor also. I will be more that happy to join the the process and lawsuit which is a collection of small claim suits that are filed and heard by the court collectively. I will also help in the gathering of evidence to be presented. Cyrus 626-422-5241
sayitisntso October 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Safe Streets Now! uses a State of California nuisance abatement law. This law is at the heart of the program. It affirms that residents have a right to fully enjoy the use of their homes in peace. The process for Safe Streets Now! is straightforward and includes the following steps: 1. Identify property creating the public nuisance. 2. Take notes on nuisance. 3. Phone each incidence to the police. 4. Write 'demand letter' to the property owner and threaten to take the owner to Small Claims Court if he or she does not correct the nuisance. (The majority of cases never make it to court, most landlords voluntarily remove the problem tenants from their properties after receiving the demand letter.) 5. Take the landlord to Small Claims Court. The plaintiffs (neighborhood residents) file a joint suit. It costs $75 (which can be waived) per plaintiff to file and each plaintiff can sue for up to $7,500. No attorneys may be used by either party in a small claims trial. Court dates are set within 30 days of the filing and judgments are issued within 30 days of the trial. Small Claims Court is swift and inexpensive. This can also be used against business by anyone in the community. Your property value and safety is being threatened.
J. Knight October 02, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thanks for posting this. I am happy to see a conversation on this property. I will say we frequent Cherry On Top quite once a week and have not had any problems with the people in the shopping center. I feel safe there after dark. Having said that I do think the management company is not doing justice to the community. The card shop has been vacant for years now. It is hard for me to believe that they have not been able to fill that space by now. And now most of the store fronts are dark. I am not surprised to find out that the tenants have not been able to work with the management company. And what other major grocery store requires you to get a token to use the bathroom? That right their indicates that Pavillion's has problems with crime (not to mention that their bathrooms are disgusting despite the restricted use). Friday nights, the shopping center is over run with pre-teens and teens with nothing to do. Finally you did not mention that the property across the street is also vacant (the old Blockbuster). What business would want to sign up for this location? Could also be why Cherry On Top is losing business to Yogurtland. It is just nicer across the street. If we want patrons to come to Monrovia (and now they will soon have easy access through the Gold Line) we need to provide clean, safe places for them to spend their money because there are plenty of other cities to go to.
sayitisntso October 02, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Bathrooms are only disgusting and dirty because management allows them to be. The trouble with the Pavilions is bad management at the store and corporate level. I buy very little their anymore. They are over priced, have very poor service and could not be any dirtied and remain open.
Ellen Zunino October 03, 2012 at 02:43 AM
A number of local shopping centers anchored with large markets are having trouble with the homeless, beggars and scammers. I've noticed that they seem to be out in full force when there are a large number of elderly people shopping. You have to remember that those of us who grew up in different eras and in small towns aren't used to having to confront these kinds of people and may be easier "marks" than younger residents with urban living experience who can maintain personal and emotional distance. It may our own gullibility that is attracting them.
Chris Ziegler October 03, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Robert: Are you serious when you say you are, "affraid" of FPP? Secondly, you title yourself as, "Christian" and much of our community identifies themselves as Christian too so, out of curiosity, what would be the Christian thing to do for our brothers and sisters that are failing to thrive? If I remember correctly, Jesus went among the sinners to help them heal......
Gayle M. Montgomery October 03, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Property owners purchase their property presumably to either raise an income or, in some instances, a tax write-off to offset other income. Over the last 10 years, extraneous the recession, I can think of a couple of other locations in town where businesses went by the wayside because property owners "jacked the rates" so high that the merchant could no longer afford to stay open. We lost Spires on Huntington because they couldn't charge for meals what it would cost to meet the rent. Mr. Justice's wife (Justice Brothers on the other side of the 605) had a lovely shop on Myrtle a few years ago she sacrificed because new owners raised the rates sky high. There has to be a balance between rents and what business owners can pay. We're seeing too many businesses go by the way side. Ever been to the complex where the AMC Theatre is in Covina? Lots of those businesses have folded as have the businesses around the Edwards complex. Some will blame the economy, but landlords need to be practical. They don't enhance the value of their property when they run good merchants away, and the businesses stay empty. But Dr. Letran is my dentist, and I THOUGHT she moved for better space. I don't know about the rent aspect.
Gayle M. Montgomery October 03, 2012 at 08:17 PM
The Beattitudes come to mind
Robert Parry October 04, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Actually, Chris, the word "afraid" does not appear in my post. I did say walking there at night from my area is ill-advised, and I stand by that. I think you know me and my background well enough to realize I could probably deal with a confrontation. But, why bother? For Ms. Zunnino and the more seasoned among our citizens, it may indeed be a dangerous idea. As for my faith (which I never raised, but thanks, I guess, for mentioning it), I classify myself as a "Johnny Cash Christian." I deeply believe in caring for the oppressed and downtrodden. I ran the PR efforts for "Bring LA Home," a coalition of organizations which were aligned efforts to end homelessness in a decade. I spent many days on and around Skid Row in that capacity. I saw things there I never really thought could happen in America. But I also learned about the intractability of the problem, and how many people are there as a result of their own decisions, or circumstances beyond anyone's control (e.g. mental illness). Government will not solve them, especially here in Monrovia (a solution only attracts more of the problem, is one of the paradoxes of the homeless equation). I sincerely doubt Westar Associates has facilitated the occupation of its property to end homelessness and addiction. At the end of the day, it creates an odious environment which makes running to the store for a late night jug of milk a logistical and security challenge.
Dan Crandell October 04, 2012 at 07:08 AM
We shop Pavilions regularly and bank at Chase. Monrovia had to recreate that entire area to develop that shopping center. The school district building was leveled and a street disappeared. removed most of which was done with redevelopment funds of some sort. It's sad what has been to degrade that GemCity jewel of a complex. Good BLOG brother. Hope to see you at our city park on Veterans Day.
Jerry Baker October 05, 2012 at 02:19 PM
The whole city is becoming a blight and a danger. Eventually it will become more so as Monrovians whose families have been there for generations do as I did and find a home elsewhere. While living there I watched the City practically invite urban decay and crime by encouraging the conversion of single-family properties into multi-family apartments and approving massive developments of multi-family housing. When density increases various measures of quality of life are decreased: traffic and gridlock increase, parking becomes more difficult and challenging, more confrontations with noisy neighbors, and more crime. Monrovia is fast losing its "small town" character.
Chris Ziegler October 10, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Robert, Your not sure if you are aware of the fact that your faith is listed in the subtitle beneath your name - Seems like you are putting it out there in the public domain. Also, what's a Johnny Cash Christian? If it weren't for Johnny's talents as a singer, he'd likely have been homeless too as he went the path of drugs and violence. Also, I think some of the folks are alluding to as 'undesireables' at FPP are attendees of the 12-step program in the church around the corner - so we may want to keep in mind that some are on the path to self-improvement. As to the chronic mentally-ill long-term homeless types: if government isn't the solution, (mental hospitals or other in-patient care facilities) what is? Since these folks have little ability to pay it seems like a private solution is out, nor do I know of a charity that has the resources to take-on the problem. As it is now, one city just runs them off in to another location. Eventully, these folks wind-up in the San Gabriel River and other wildland areas and which discourage healthy activities and on occasion their fires get out of control and burn down scores of homes.
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IDA-RED October 12, 2012 at 07:12 AM
Returning to the SafeStreetsNow, it works!! It has been used twice in my neighborhood. First against a local business that housed dangerous parolees and as it turned out, parole violators. Next, a resident drug dealer who for years had perpetuated a dangerous environment for neighbors and their kids by bringing his seedy customers to our neighborhood on a daily basis. In both instances, the ramifications of Safe Streets Now was merely suggested and the problem was solved within days. The MPD is very proactive and supportive of this law. Simply follow the advice given above by sayitisntso. It works!!
genevieve October 13, 2012 at 02:20 PM
I agree with Chris. Jesus tried to save people. Jesus does not want us to be so detached. Not everyone is lucky to have a warm home to come to each night. Where would you like these people to stay when it is so cold and rainy? Many of these homeless are Viet Nam VETS. Just because they are homeless does not mean they are crazy. How unkind you are! Instead of blaming the Pavillions perhaps complainers can get involved with working to help them. Some of these individuals have fallen on hard times and may have just given up. Mental ilness is an illness. Perhaps all complainers can get together to have a constructive meeting to help solve the problem, help these poor people relocate. God says to help the lowly. Do some cities have their own shelters, government or private?
SgtJackWagon November 18, 2012 at 11:06 AM
And now we have to deal with this "junk peddler" from wholesalemkt and his not funny comments. Does anyone know who to call to keep this individual from posting his ads which litter this city's "Patch" newsletter? You've got a lot of class wholemkt14. The problem is, it's all third.

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