Pictured above is an artist's rendering of the planned Fresh & Easy store at 52nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard in south Los Angeles. The design of the parking lot - it's located next to rather than behind the building - generated opposition to Fresh & Easy's plan. But twelve of the 13 members of the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the plan with the parking lot as is, next to the store. [Artist's rendering: KL Architects.]
Southern California Market Region
[Related Story - December 16, 2010: New Retail Center Would Bring Ralphs Supermarket, Target Store to South Los Angeles' Crenshaw]
Despite objections by a number of neighborhood groups, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve (13 members for and just one member against) a proposed Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market store at 52nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, in south Los Angeles.
The store will be the fresh food and grocery chain's second market in south Los Angeles, a part of the city that's currently underserved by supermarkets offering fresh food and groceries at reasonable prices.
In September of this year the Los Angeles City Planning Commission granted Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market four of the five exemptions it requested to what's called the Crenshaw Specific Plan, an area zoning policy that prohibits certain types of new development in the neighborhood, including automotive businesses, drive-through establishments, gun and pawn shops, swap meets, public storage facilities, motels, bars not attached to dining and dancing businesses, recycling and buy-back centers and strip malls.
The four exemptions are:
>To permit two wall signs along the façade facing Crenshaw Boulevard and one pedestrian sign (three total) along the façade facing 52nd Street in lieu of the maximum of one wall sign and one Pedestrian Sign (two total) which is otherwise permitted for each business establishment located on a street corner.
>To permit a sign along the east elevation of the proposed project (Crenshaw Corridor frontage) to have 184.6 square feet of sign area, and to also permit a sign along the north elevation (52nd Street frontage) to have 124.7 square feet of sign area, both of which exceed the maximum 75 feet of sign area otherwise permitted.
>To permit the northern facing ground floor façade (facing 52nd Street) to have 20 percent transparent building elements in lieu of the otherwise required 50 percent.
>To permit a surface parking lot for the proposed Fresh & Easy Market to be located at the side of the structure instead of the rear of the building as is otherwise required.
The Crenshaw Specific Plan, which mandates that all new developments have parking behind the retail or office buildings, is also designed to encourage pedestrian foot-traffic along Crenshaw Boulevard and the neighboring streets.
Following the granting of the exemptions and approval of Fresh & Easy's plans by the planning commission for the store at 52nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard, The Hyde Park Organizational Partnership for Empowerment (HOPE), a non-profit neighborhood organization, along with a couple other community groups appealed the commission's decision to the Los Angeles City Council. (You can view a December 3, 2010 "open letter" HOPE director Winnifred Jackson wrote about the group's opposition to the store here.)
The key point of opposition HOPE and the others have to the proposed Crenshaw Fresh & Easy market is design-related: They want the store's parking lot to be placed in back (behind) the store rather than next to it (see the artist's rendering at top). One of the exemptions to the Crenshaw Specific Plan (number four in the above list) given to Fresh & Easy allows for the parking lot to be next to rather than in back of the store.
The opponents argued to the city council at yesterday's meeting that the parking lot should be located behind the grocery market because doing so fits the elements of the Crenshaw Specific Plan, including encouraging more pedestrian-friendly development. They claim having the parking lot next to instead of in back of the Fresh & Easy store creates an automobile-related strip mall development, which is prohibited in the Crenshaw Specific (zoning) Plan. (See above.)
Tesco's Fresh & Easy says the shape of the parcel prohibits placing the parking lot behind the store.
The Los Angeles City Council, led by Councilmember Bernard C. Parks who represents L.A.'s Eighth District, disagreed with the opponents' position, however, and upheld the planning commission's decision to grant Fresh & Easy the five zoning exemptions, approving the plans for the store with the parking lot beside it rather than behind it, by a huge majority of votes.
"In a community with the highest rate of diet-related health problems - such as obesity and diabetes - as well as the lowest life expectancy in the city, this is a monumental step toward providing residents the choices they need to take control of their diet and their health," Parks said yesterday in a statement about the vote in favor of bringing the Fresh & Easy store to the majority African-American neighborhood in south Los Angeles.
Additionally, the majority of Crenshaw District residents who packed yesterday's city council meeting were in support of rather than in opposition to bringing the Fresh & Easy market to the neighborhood, regardless of where its parking lot will be situated.
Walter Cathey Jr, a regional director for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in Los Angeles, worked to rally support among neighborhood residents in advance of yesterday's council vote in favor of the planned fresh food and grocery market.
Cathey also worked closely with Councilmember Parks and other supporters to make sure the project had a broad range of support, not just from neighborhood residents, but also from city officials and other stakeholders.
For example, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department spoke out in favor of Fresh & Easy's store plan at yesterday's council meeting. Andre Dixon, a senior lead officer from the 77th Division, which is located in the neighborhood, said having the parking lot next to (the approved design) rather than behind the market (what the opposition wants), was superior from a public safety standpoint because having parking behind the store would decrease visibility and pose a public safety risk.
According to Councilmember Parks, the Fresh & Easy store, which the grocer plans to start construction on early next year, will be the first new grocery market to be built in the Eighth District in a decade.
Fresh & Easy is also planning a second store on Crenshaw Boulevard, at Crenshaw and Jefferson Boulevards. The store is part of the $12 million "West Angeles Plaza" retail project that's being developed by the West Angeles Community Development Corporation.
The south Los Angeles region, which comprises numerous neighborhoods, is a "food dessert" area, meaning it offers a less than desired number supermarkets that offer fresh foods and groceries at reasonable prices.
Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market opened its first store in south Los Angeles in February of this year. [See - February 24, 2010: Fresh & Easy Store Opens its Doors in South Los Angeles.] That store, which is at 1025 East Adams Boulevard (Central & Adams), has thus far been one of the grocer's better performing Southern California units, our sources tell us.
The grocer also has a store in nearby Compton, which also has a history of being undeserved by supermarkets. [See - February 10, 2008: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Opens Latest New Store in 'Food Desert' City of Compton, California.]
The majority of the 92 Fresh & Easy stores in Southern California are suburban locations, located in middle-to-higher income neighborhoods in the region. There are currently 155 Fresh & Easy markets - 106 stores in California, 28 in Arizona, and 21 in Nevada.
But the Tesco-owned grocer appears, based on our research and reporting, to be considering implementing a more aggressive urban strategy as part of its new store opening plans and growth in Southern California.
For example, as we reported last week in this story - December 10, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason Says 70 New Stores Possible in Los Angeles Area - Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO and Tesco corporate director, told a San Fernando Valley business group last week that the food retailer has identified 70 new store locations in Los Angeles County and could open up to that many stores in the region down the road.
We learned this week from our sources that a number of those potential future store locations are in lower-income Los Angeles neighborhoods that are underserved by supermarkets. Whether the grocer opens that many (oreven close to it) stores in Los Angeles though, we will have to wait to see.
But residents of the 52nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard area will only have to wait perhaps until late 2011, the time period when the grocer hopes to open the market, for Tesco's Fresh & Easy to come to their south Los Angeles neighborhood.
December 10, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason Says 70 New Stores Possible in Los Angeles Area
December 15, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's California WIC Voucher Expansion Program Stalled
July 2008 piece: Tesco's to Open A Fresh & Easy Grocery Market in Low Income, Underserved South Central Los Angeles Neighborhood
February 24, 2010: Fresh & Easy Store Opens its Doors in South Los Angeles
February 23, 2010: Food Deserts & WIC Vouchers: Half A Loaf For the New Fresh & Easy Store Opening Tomorrow in South Los Angeles
July 28, 2010: What A Long, Strange Trip it's Been: South Los Angeles Will Be First Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store to Accept WIC Vouchers Starting Tomorrow
July 30, 2010: Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store at Central & Adams in South Los Angeles is Now Accepting WIC Vouchers; Additional Stores to Follow
July 11, 2008: 'Food Desert' Neighborhoods and Southern California: More on the Fresh & Easy Store Planned For South Central Los Angeles
July 15, 2008: Fresh Food to Bloom in An Inner-City Food Desert: Tesco's Fresh & Easy Breaks Ground For New Store in Underserved South Los Angeles Neighborhood
July 6, 2008: Former NBA Great Earvin 'Magic' Johnson is Working His Business Magic in Urban, Inner City Neighborhoods; We Offer An Idea For Tesco's Fresh & Easy