Property owner gets 90 more days to fix parking lot

DOWNEY - A property owner has been given 90 days to begin repairs on his crumbling parking lot in west Downey or face prosecution from the city.Duane Alstrom, of Tucson, Ariz., owns the property at 11402 Old River School Rd., which houses a retail strip and the Habana Cafe. When the Cuban restaurant was granted a liquor license two years ago, Alstrom agreed to a stipulation that he repair the parking lot. The parking lot remains in disrepair because Alstrom said it would cost $65,000 to grind and resurface the lot. He also claimed he would not qualify for a loan and the sunken economy forced him to lower tenant rent. "I've tried to secure loans, talked to a couple of different lenders, but I‚Äàalready have a note on the property," Alstrom told planning commissioners Wednesday, although he acknowledged later he never actually applied for a line of credit. "With prosecution I‚Äàwould be tied up in court using money I could put towards the (parking lot). I‚Äàhad to lower rent on my property to at least make it look like it was full." Planning Commissioners had the option of giving Alstrom an extension, pulling Habana Cafe's liquor license or referring the matter to Code Enforcement, which would trigger a criminal prosecution. Commissioners said punishing Habana Cafe would be unfair and opted for a 90-day extension, but stressed they wanted to see "good faith" from Alstrom. "We want to work with the applicant, and I still want to work with the applicant," said commissioner Louis Morales. "Initiating code enforcement may seem a little harsh at this point, but we don't want to seem too lenient either... If we give (Alstrom) more time, (he) needs to show us some effort, on some part." Commissioner Hector Lujan agreed. "I agree it's been a little too long now," Lujan said. "It's been two years. It doesn't seem like he's making efforts, other than asking for extensions." If progress is not made on the parking lot within 90 days, commissioners said the case will be referred to Code Enforcement. Jessica Flores, an associate planner with the city, said Code Enforcement would immediately begin prosecution. "The city always tries to be business friendly," said city planner William Davis. "Staff's desire would be to make sure we maintain some type of consistency as far as property maintenance requirements. We need something reasonable and powerful enough to make sure he complies."

********** Published: August 18, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 18