A firestorm of criticism met 7-Eleven representatives at a community meeting Thursday night as strong local resistance to the proposed development at Braddock Drive and Sepulveda Boulevard refuses to fade.
Traffic, noise, trash and alcohol and cigarette sales were among the slate of concerns as about 50 local residents sat in the auditorium at Culver City Middle School. Residents also said the store will harm the community's character.
The criticisms came even as 7-Eleven has adapted its plans in response to community feedback.
The site of the controversial proposal is the southeast corner of Braddock and Sepulveda. The city projects $100,000 in annual sales tax revenue, and the space will cost 7-Eleven $1.5 million to develop, said 7-Eleven representative Bryan Silveira.
For Thursday’s meeting, 7-Eleven developed a new site plan that incorporates aspects of community and city input. A wall would be placed between the adjacent alleyway and the parking lot to mitigate concerns about access, and the front door would face Sepulveda rather than the lot.
Improved landscaping including the planting of trees is also part of the new site plan. Celso Martinez, a contractor for 7-Eleven, pointed to the sale of fresh fruits in the store as part of a companywide move toward healthier options.
But the new design and branding have failed to win over critics. Complaints started with the meeting location itself—many people said the auditorium was poorly marked and hard to find.
“That says very loudly at least to me that you don’t want people here,” resident Peter Lenkey told Silveira and Martinez.
Marie Malahi lives next to the proposed development and is strongly opposed to a 7-Eleven in her neighborhood. Sepulveda is already rife with safety concerns, she said. Her teenage son was hit by a car on Sepulveda earlier in the year, she told the audience, and increased traffic will likely block her from pulling out of her driveway.
“With all the traffic there, you can’t move,” Malahi said.
She said she expects the amount of trash in her yard to increase, and whether Silveira and Martinez wanted to pay to maintain her landscaping.
Malahi also criticized the city for not notifying local schools of the proposed plan. The convenience store would fall in the area of Culver City Middle School, Culver City High School and Farragut Elementary School.
Notice of the meeting was mailed to all properties within a 1,000 foot radius of the site, said city associate planner Joshua Williams. Williams could not confirm whether schools fell into that range.
“I’m leaving with more concerns this time around,” Malahi said after the meeting.
When it comes to crime, Martinez said 7-Eleven puts forth a strong deterrence effort. An advanced camera system would be used to monitor the lot, and only $30 in cash would be kept in the register at night, he said.
But residents said that a full-time security guard should be in place. Reduced hours of operation for the shop was another suggestion that emerged at Thursday's meeting.
Access to alcoholic beverages in the store, already a pivotal point at previous meetings, continued to be a central concern among residents. Veda Veach read a letter on behalf of the Culver-Palms United Methodist Church, which voted June 26 to oppose the proposal.
In addition to concerns about minors and alcohol, the proximity of the store to the church would undermine its regular Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Veach read.
An age screening to prevent alcohol and cigarette sales to minors would be a routine part of store operation, Martinez said. The store would have to obtain an administrative use permit to sell alcoholic beverages.
Lenkey countered that the convenience store would hurt the neighborhood as a whole.
“[The store] attracts a seedy element, and we don’t want that,” he said.
Local architect Ed Ogosta took the same position as Lenkey had, but from a slightly different perspective.
“This is a faceless franchised building,” Ogosta said. “[7-Eleven] needs to get a better designer.”
The sole show of support for the store during the public comment period came from Alan Silverman, a local radio journalist who has lived on Braddock for 21 years.
The reaction to the plan has been a “knee-jerk” one so far, he said, with broad and unsubstantiated claims being circulated.
In observing the other 7-Eleven in the area, Silverman said he has yet to see loitering vagrants there. In fact, he said, the business has brought improvement over a video store that once occupied the space.
“It’s a clean, well-lit area,” Silverman said.
Silverman also said he appreciated the six part-time and two full-time jobs that would be created by the store, although other community members said the number was not substantial enough.
Williams noted that the meeting was more organized this time around.
The first community meeting earlier in the year did not contain site plans or photographs, and there was less ability for community members to react in a constructive way, he said.
“It’s been a long process,” Williams said, noting that feelings on the issue have been unchanged since the proposal first went public in October.
7-Eleven will now need to submit an application to the city in order to continue the process. The third and final community meeting will be held after the application has been filed, Williams said.