Hoping to head off a potential scuffle with Van Nuys homeowners, Home Depot has initiated talks to set up a day laborer center near its upcoming store at the former General Motors plant. The home-improvement retailer wants to create an area that would house a trailer or other structure and bathroom facilities to keep day laborers from congregating around its store. Home Depot expects to open its new Van Nuys outlet in late August at Van Nuys Boulevard and Arminta Street. The city of Los Angeles has already established such centers in North Hollywood, Hollywood and San Pedro at a cost of between $110,000 and $125,000 a year per site, said Miguel Acuna, program analyst for the city’s day laborer program. The city’s Community Development Department handles the existing centers. The Home Depot center would also be city-funded and administered, although Home Depot might donate materials to set up the Van Nuys facility and contribute in other, yet-to-be-determined ways, according to Tom McCarty, a consultant working with Home Depot. Without such centers, day laborers usually congregate around stores like Home Depot to offer their services to contractors and others who are shopping for supplies at these stores. These workers often draw the ire of homeowners, who complain that they interfere with traffic, intimidate passersby, and use the bathrooms of nearby businesses or, in some cases, the streets. City officials said that, in the past, centers were established at the suggestion of a City Council member who, in turn, was representing requests from the community. This time, it was Home Depot that approached the city about the center. “We are in the embryonic stages of the process of establishing a new site,” said McCarty, who was hired to help Home Depot explore the possibility of setting up the center. “Home Depot tries to head off problems (associated with day laborers).” Home Depot and the city have yet to determine what this center will feature and how it will be set up. Existing centers typically operate between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. They provide dispatchers who make sure the work assignments are distributed equitably, and they provide referrals for medical care and legal assistance if employers refuse to pay laborers their wages, said Acuna. The centers distribute fliers promoting such features as medical and legal referrals to persuade day laborers to use the facilities. Richard Alarcon, city councilman for the Seventh District, said there has been no community “outcry” about possible problems at the new store, but there has certainly been concern. “There are problems that come with Home Depots wherever they are set up,” said Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Association, which has expressed its concerns to the developers and to city officials. “We are hoping something can be worked out so those problems can be prevented.” Acuna expects an advisory council made up of representatives of the city, Home Depot, business groups and homeowners to be set up in coming months to determine whether to go ahead with the project and decide on a site for the center. If the center is established, the same committee would oversee its performance. The Home Depot will be part of a development called “The Plant,” which will have some 356,000 square feet of retail space abutting 600,000 square feet of industrial space on 36 acres. Voit Development Co. Inc. and the Selleck Development Group are jointly developing the project at the site, where General Motors closed its plant in 1992.