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What Should Happen To This Empty Storefront?

You probably drive past this vacant building on El Centro every day. Should the owner lease it? How would you like to see it reopen?

There's a vacant building at 1412/1414 El Centro Street across the street from 's parking lot.

Have you seen it? 

Patch recently featured it in Where in South Pas is Patch?

The building was built in around 1951, and is now owned by AT&T.

Here's some history per South Pas Director of Planning & Building, David Watkins: 

AT&T owns that property, which is located behind its switching facility on Mission Street.

In 2006, AT&T requested a Conditional Use Permit for the expansion of a parking lot that would provide 7 more parking spaces for the employees at AT&T’s switching facility. 

The proposal was to demolish that building along with a house that was right behind it. The Planning Commission denied that request for a parking lot expansion for the following reasons:

•     South Pasadena’s General Plan (Guideline 1.8) encourages the exploration of shared parking and parking access. The applicant indicated in public hearing, that the proposed parking lot would not be available for a shared parking agreement with surrounding land uses that now have insufficient parking.

•     The parking lot expansion does not encourage employees to consider alternate modes of transportation (i.e. carpooling, walking, bicycling, mass transit, etc). This in turn is injurious to the general welfare of the City in terms of increased air pollution related to additional motor vehicle trips to the site.

•     The parking lot expansion would deviate from the City’s goals of creating a pedestrian-oriented downtown district. The parking lot is not an aesthetic improvement to the El Centro Streetscape.

Ultimately, AT&T decided not to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision. AT&T demolished the home, but has decided not to lease the commercial building. 

Prior to AT&T's ownership, the building has also been home to a barber shop, a flower shop, and South Stampadena—a business that sold rubber stamps, ink pads and office supplies. 

Most recently,  set up an office there to display a model of the downtown project. 

But it's been vacant since 2006. 

So today, Patch asks: Were you around to see this building transform over the years? Should AT&T lease it? And if so, what would you like to see pop up next?

Let us know what you think, and we'll feature the best comments in a follow-up post! 

Ron Rosen April 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I find the planning commission's rationales interesting, particularly the middle one. Denying parking spaces may not encourage alternate forms of transportation or reduce pollution. It may encourage more driving around, looking for parking spaces.
Elliot Kwock April 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
And I don't see how a boarded up storefront looks better than a parking lot. "The parking lot is not an aesthetic improvement to the El Centro Streetscape"
mark April 12, 2012 at 01:30 PM
The owner of the property wanted to tear it down, the city decided they couldn’t. The comment that there is insufficient street parking in the neighborhood and AT&T would not share the lot is a poor reason to deny the request. I assume any AT&T overflow parking uses the street therefore adding to the parking problem. The result of the planning commission decision is the parking problems are exacerbated and we have this eyesore. Property rights and common sense are both lacking in South Pasadena.
mark April 12, 2012 at 01:35 PM
The owner of the property wanted to tear it down, the city decided it couldn’t. The comment that there is insufficient street parking in the neighborhood and AT&T would not share the lot is a poor reason to deny the request. I assume any AT&T overflow parking uses the street therefore adding to the parking problem. The result of the planning commission decision is the parking problems are exacerbated and we have this eyesore. Property rights and common sense are both lacking in South Pasadena.
Joanne Nuckols April 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Because the AT&T switching station requires few employees, thus little parking need, their rationale for tearing down the house, a victorian by the way, was highly questionable since there was parking room with both building on site. Next time you drive by, check to see if there are any vehicles parked on the property behind the building to test their theory. The issue, as I see it, is the City's lack of capability, for this storefront and others in town, to force the owners to fix-up and rent out. AT&T seems to be using the Caltrans Operating Manual for property (leave the houses we own vacant to deteriorate) of demolition by neglect.
Natasha Prime April 12, 2012 at 02:39 PM
The Place, our local teen center, would love that space! The location would be in perfect proximity to the middle and high schools. We are a non-profit, so it would have to be affordable (or maybe donated?). Check us out on Facebook - The Place of South Pasadena - for more information.
Howard Spector April 12, 2012 at 03:20 PM
SPARC, The South Pasadena Arts Council would also like to have this space for our art activities and projects. With so many creative people in South Pas it would be great to have a place to coalesce this creative energy. It needs to be affordable or best, donated. To find out more about SPARC please visit us at www.sopasartscouncil.com
Herbert Barnes April 12, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I think this is a "teachable moment" for our city planners. Zoning and esthetics should be the only issues in play. AT&T was denied permission to improve the property in a way that would serve their needs. With some well conceived landscaping a small parking lot would look vastly better than the derelict building. If I owned the building I would fix it up and rent it....to at least cover the taxes. But AT&T can easily afford to let a small piece of their property be financially unproductive. In a couple of decades when prosperity returns, the City should go to AT&T and politely point out that their large attractive building across from City Hall could earn AT&T more money if used for a retail business....which is more suited to Mission Street's zoning. I repeat, zoning and esthetics should be the only issues in play. The city demands new businesses to provide for parking for their customers. So isn't "shared parking" on private property a puzzling contradiction? I'll have to go over to Von's and see if their parking lot still says "No Rialto Parking".
Steve Garcia April 12, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I was already off of the Planning Commission when this decision was made, but frankly, I doubt that I would have supported the PC's decision or its rationale, primarily because one could have predicted what is happening now. Asking what should happen to the building is really irrelevant if the owner is content to have it sit as it is. There is little that the city can do to change that. The application to the PC was an opportunity to work with the owner, and all too often, we don't view those applications as such, instead opting for a simple yea or nay. Too bad.
Kristen Lepore (Editor) April 12, 2012 at 05:29 PM
According to City staff, if AT&T wanted to lease the building, it would have to go through the Public Utilities Commission to get it declared surplus, or to allow it to be used for something other than for AT&T’s needs. Patch would be happy to reach out to AT&T and see what it plans to do, if anything.
spidra April 12, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I love that little place! And I'd vastly prefer it, even empty, to yet another parking lot. South Pasadena has lost some of its character in recent decades with the parking lots and strip malls...starts to make us look just like the rest of LA. I'd love to see it as an art space. Or as a little bodega. Or a independent café that stays open later than 8pm. If you want to revitalize downtown and increase tax revenue for the city, you have to have businesses there, preferably ones open to the public. People don't visit downtowns for parking lots. They visit downtowns for restaurants, cafés, galleries & stores that are attractive.
Steve Garcia April 12, 2012 at 06:15 PM
In my view, the place, with it's relative length to width and ample windows, begs to be a Bakery or Sandwich shop. The problem is location. Since it's tucked on a side street, it would not get the same traffic that the Munch Company or the bakery across the street on Mission get. Still, with a good business model and good food, people would find it. Another option would be a retail boutique-type business, such as a rare coin or stamp dealer, which doesn't need a lot of space but would draw people regardless of the location due to its uniqueness. The security of the building would probably have to be improved, however.
spidra April 12, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Bakery is an EXCELLENT idea! While we have Great Harvest and My Sweet Cupcake, we don't have a first class European style bakery nearby that I know of. Many bakeries are capable of making things that look fantastic but taste merely of sugar and fat. A first class European bakery makes far more subtle and sublime creations. And it wouldn't necessarily take competition away from the other bakeries because it's doing something different. Such a bakery would be a real draw so I think it would overcome the lack of foot traffic in the location. Crixa Cakes in Berkeley did the same thing - took a place with no foot traffic and made it into a real destination! http://www.crixacakes.com/ The problem I could see would be getting the proper ovens in that small space (though you're right the display space is perfect).
katie michaels April 12, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Spidra, we have Heirloom and union bakery, both of which predates cupcake and great harvest, and both of whom make fresh crusty European style bread daily.
spidra April 12, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Thanks for pointing those out. Taking a look at people's reviews and some photos, they still seem to be mostly American-style bakeries or American takes on European. Crixa has a Hungarian baker and regularly features unusual and authentic pastries from Central Europe as well as English, French & Scandinavian recipes. But you're right in pointing out that with at least 4 bakeries of various sorts in town, we're not shy of bakeries.
Kristen Lepore (Editor) April 12, 2012 at 09:19 PM
I also just got news today that La Monarca Bakery will be coming to the corner of Mission and Meridian sometime this year. Not sure what building? Check out our latest FB update.
Kristen Lepore (Editor) April 12, 2012 at 09:19 PM
http://www.facebook.com/SouthPasadenaPatch
Kim Lesak April 13, 2012 at 07:37 PM
The Place is a truly important and needed service for our young people in South Pasadena. It is often the only place this kids have to go after school. A centrally located spot such as this is ideal.
Jp Abratte April 17, 2012 at 08:32 PM
How about a Butcher Shop
Kristen Lepore (Editor) June 26, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Update: AT&T says it's working with the city to find the best use for the property at 1412/1414 El Centro. See comments from spokesperson here: http://patch.com/A-v0zr Thoughts?
Just My Opinion July 01, 2012 at 12:14 AM
What's going on with Cappy's storefront? Been vacant for many years. I'm sure Cappy wouldn't mind another business or a non-profit (kids) organization being in there. And, you know, Cappy loved us So. Pas. kids.
Christen Cutrona January 02, 2013 at 07:02 PM
I've lived in South Pasadena for some time now and I've been curious about this space. I have a small letterpress studio Maude Press in South Pasadena and need to find a new location to set up my shop--this space would be perfect!

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