Even on election night in Culver City, there was no shortage of community criticism as representatives from held their last community meeting before submitting their application to the city's Community Development Director for approval.
Approximately 30 people attended the third and final community meeting on Tuesday night, and neither their stand nor opinion about the proposed 7-Eleven at the corner of Braddock Drive and Sepulveda Boulevard has changed—they are strongly opposed and some went as far as saying they “hate” the idea.
Traffic, noise, trash, cigarette sales and the stigma that follows 7-Eleven as being a home to the homeless, are among the top concerns for Culver City residents. And these concerns were not phased by the changes 7-Eleven has made to their project proposal.
7-Eleven, for the time being, has removed their request to sell alcohol, and have said they will not only put up a six-foot-wall blocking the store from the alley and the property on the other side, they also said they would be planting cypress trees on the alley side of the wall to help block the view and muffle the noise.
But attending residents were not satisfied with the proposed changes. In fact, they made it clear no changes to the site plan will make them happy.
Marcelo Cavalheiro, a Culver City resident and children’s psychologist, said he will not support a 7-Eleven under any circumstances: “I would prefer a homeless shelter rather than a 7-Eleven,” he said.
Another Culver City resident, Helen Pinkston, is concerned about the possible decline of her and her neighbors' property values.
“My savings, all of my money is in my house. The value of my property means a lot to me,” she said. But property value wasn’t her only concern. She went on to say, “This whole project is a nightmare, the traffic will be a nightmare. This is a nightmare for us.”
But representatives from 7-Eleven assured the residents that traffic would not increase by much. They pointed to a traffic analysis that was completed by a private company, which was intended to show the proposed changes in traffic due to the project. It showed that traffic, due to the 7-Eleven, would increase by 4.7 percent in the morning and 3.5 percent in the evening.
Currently, approximately 2,335 vehicles pass by the proposed project site in the a.m. and 2,422 vehicles in the p.m.—this would increase by 116 vehicles in the a.m. and 90 vehicles in the p.m., according to the study.
But residents in attendance didn’t agree with the study, nor did they think it was an accurate count because of the fact that the Taco Bell located at that intersection was not open.
Brian Silveira, planning consultant with The Katherman Company, said that had the Taco Bell been open, it would have actually decreased the amount of proposed traffic to 7-Eleven.
“If the Taco Bell were open then the precent increase of traffic would have actually decreased,” he said. “So having the Taco Bell closed actually makes the traffic increase higher than it would have been if the Taco Bell would have been opened during the count.”
The controversial project is proposed on the southeast corner of Braddock and Sepulveda. The city projects $100,000 in annual sales tax revenue, and the constructed space is said to cost 7-Eleven $1.5 million to develop.
Aaron Swerdlow, who currently has the lease for the property of the proposed project, told the audience that he approached 7-Eleven, and there is no other business that would work at this site.
“The chances of neighborhood coming in and buying the site is non-existent,” he said. “Numbers are numbers, returns are returns, it is what it is, we have a project that has more than six figures invested to this day. We are deep into this process, we don’t all of a sudden take out an eraser and stop this. We don’t.”
His statements fired up residents, who are insistent on knowing who actually property owner is, to which Swerdlow wouldn’t respond. He went on to say that the issues the community has are not 7-Eleven issues.
“The traffic and noise would increase no matter what is there,” he said. “These are local traffic problems, no 7-Eleven problems. So the question is, do you want to board up the site? Or do you want to deal with the reality and put something there that will look good and add to the neighborhood?”
Richard Rownik, a Culver City resident, pointed to what he called a “nationwide movement to take away the rights of people.”
“We are up against greed and corporate politics,” he said. “Look at our own City Council, who has voted twice to shorten the amount of time that residents can speak in front of the council. At this point the only thing we can do is complain, the city says projects happen cause we don’t complain enough. So I urge you to complain, complain, complain.”
Even with the complaints and concerns from community members, Josh Williams with the Culver City Planning Division, said the application will be turned over to the Community Development Director next week and he will make a decision on whether or not to approve the plan.
If approved, the residents can file an appeal, and if denied 7-Eleven, can file an appeal. At that time, city staff will put together a staff report informing the Planning Commission and the City Council, who will eventually make the final decision.
Kevin Coda, a commercial real estate analyst and Culver City resident, said his fight isn’t with 7-Eleven or the lease holder, it is with the city who is not stepping up to the plate.
“Unfortunately, any development will cause additional traffic, and this is where the city needs to step in and address the traffic problems at this intersection,” he said. “This whole project has sort of been ramrodded down our throats and that is why a lot of people are angry. We feel disenfranchised.”