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Can Anything be Done to Expedite the Sale of This Retail Space Near City Hall?

A business has trouble being sold because of "new use" parking requirements.

Fashion Dry Cleaners, 913 Fremont Ave. (Photo credit: Ajay Singh).
Fashion Dry Cleaners, 913 Fremont Ave. (Photo credit: Ajay Singh).

A nearly 4,000-square-foot retail space attractively located a stone’s throw from City Hall has been on the market for about four months now after dropping its price by $400,000 to $1 million—but has yet to find any buyers.

The reason? Most potential buyers would have to fulfill the Mission Street Specific Plan’s so-called “change of use” requirements for additional parking, which would be prohibitive, according to the property’s broker.

The retail space in question is Fashion Dry Cleaners, which offers non-toxic dry cleaning and tailoring services. Attractively priced at $281 per square foot, it is located on 913 Fremont Ave., immediately south of the perennially empty lot where Christmas trees are currently being sold on the corner of Fremont and Mission.

The retail space, which does not do any dry cleaning on the premises and consists of two front-and-back buildings, currently has four parking spaces on a 7,405-square-foot lot. 

Click here to view the property's listing for sale on LoopNet.

According to the Mission Street Specific Plan, new businesses on properties that are sold must meet new parking requirements unless the business happens to have the same retail use as the previous one or is a business that doesn’t typically attract relatively more traffic.

According to Dorothy Sun, the retail property’s San Marino-based broker, city planners have told her that the Mission Street Specific Plan code requires four parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of retail space for any change of use development.

That’s a total of 16 spaces—12 more than the current business has.

“Either we get 16 spaces or we have to tear down the back building,” says Sun, referring to a 1,400-square-foot building leased to a music production business at the rear of the property for more than 10 years. 

(Even if the back building were demolished, leaving a total of 2,600 square feet of retail space, the city code would still require a doubling of parking spaces—from four to eight and a half—if the retail space changed its use.)

City Manager Sergio Gonzalez confirmed that how many parking spaces a new business would require would ultimately depend on what use the retail space would be put to.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t be creative,” Gonzalez said, referring to the possibility of leasing parking spaces from neighboring businesses during peak traffic hours. “It’s one of the things we’ve been successful at,” the city manager added.

According to property broker Sun, Senior Planner John Mayer of the city’s Planning and Building Department was “very helpful” when she talked to him this past summer.

“He told us that in certain uses, such as doctor’s office, if they don’t provide surgery, existing paring would be OK,” Sun told Patch, adding: “He also said four spaces would be OK for an import-export business.”

Subsequently, however, Mayer told Sun that a colleague of his “has a different interpretation and the city has to go with the code,” said the property broker, adding: “I had a lot of inquires from doctors and also from architects and art galleries.”

According to Sun, there is only one neighboring business—to the west—that has enough parking spaces to lease to a potential buyer.

But Sun has not yet negotiated with the business, partly because, she says, “to lease parking spaces from neighboring properties is very troublesome because they need public hearings that take four to six weeks.”

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