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
- 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.