Planning Commission finds itself between some cracks and a hard place

DOWNEY  – After a long discussion, the Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously voted to give a property owner 90 more days to fix the cracked parking lot of a shopping center at the southeast corner of Old River School Road and Burns Avenue near Firestone Boulevard.

Property owner Duane Alstrom for two years has neglected to obey a city order requiring him to fix up the parking lot of the 16-unit property, which includes the Habana Cafe. Tired of the delays, the city’s staff had recommended the Planning Commission send the case to code enforcement immediately and that Alstrom be forced to take the matter to court.

Alstrom said he didn’t have the $65,000 needed to grind and resurface the asphalt lot. He also said he couldn’t get a loan, only to later say that he never formally applied for a loan but had talked to some friends in the banking industry.

Due to the down economy, Alstrom recently lowered rents, he said.

He told the commission that forcing him to take matter before a judge would not solve anything.

“I would just tell the judge the same thing I told you,”  Alstrom said.

While several commissioners said they didn’t want to appear anti-business, they wondered out loud how Alstrom could not scrounge up enough credit or cash to fix the lot.

“If you had the property that many years, you ought to have some equity,” Commissioner Michael Murray said.

Alstrom told the commission that the property had been in his family since about 1975 and that the equity on the property exceeded the amount he owed on his mortgage.

Commissioner Louis Morales eventually motioned that the city’s staff give Alstrom 90 more days to show that he has plans to fix the lot.

“You need to show us some effort,” he told Alstrom.

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