San Fernando Swap Meeters Left Holding Bag Again Politics by Jacqueline Fox The folks who sell their wares at the San Fernando Swap Meet each day have got to be ringing their hands in anguish right about now. It appears a local developer’s plans to buy the land where the swap meet sits have again hit a snag, not only putting the future of the swap meet and its roughly 1,000 vendors on hold, but again derailing the city’s hopes of bringing in a much-needed mixed-use retail center to perk up an otherwise blighted industrial pocket. Randy Roth, owner of Sherman Oaks-based Roth Properties, told the Business Journal last fall he’d purchased the 35-acre site at Arroyo Avenue and Glenoaks Boulevard for $28 million and intended to close escrow by the end of the year. However, according to San Fernando City Administrator Jose Pulido, the parcel recently fell out of escrow and the land is now back on the market. It’s not clear where things went wrong for Roth because he hasn’t returned my calls. The 420,000-square-foot lot is listed with Brent Weirick at Colliers Seeley. Weirick won’t call me either, so it’s impossible to say whether there are any serious offers on the table, or even if Roth is planning on giving it one more shot. Roth’s initial plan was to move the swap meet to a new, air-conditioned, covered site, complete with permanent toilets on a 40-acre swath of land in Sun Valley. Goodbye, blue tarps, portable outhouses and long hours stewing in the heat. Roth said he also intended to offer vendors relocation assistance to sweeten the deal, and had a plan that would have eventually allowed the vendors to buy the swap meet for themselves. The on-again, off-again sale of the swap meet land, owned by Richard Dunn and William Hannon (now deceased), has been the source of serious friction among vendors, developers, landowners and city officials for years. A 2000 proposal by Los Angeles-based Regency Realty Corp. to buy the swap meet called for merely shutting it down with no contingencies for the vendors. That plan prompted a slew of heated protests from vendors and residents, and three separate bomb threats. “This is a project we have to be very careful about,” said San Fernando Mayor Cindy Montanez last year, describing Roth’s proposal, which she supported. So what can the vendors hope for now? For starters, they have Roth’s blueprint and should take nothing less, regardless of when the next offer comes and who throws it on the table. Knowledge is power. In the meantime, they ought to beat down Pulido’s door, because he could just be the best thing that’s happened to San Fernando in decades. Pulido is a native of San Fernando. His parents still live there. He came “home,” he said, to help bring the 2.4-square-mile city out of its slump and, so far, it looks like he means business. Since he’s taken over, the city has received a grant of $150,000 from the state and, along with $100,000 of its own money, San Fernando is set to begin its Downtown Rebound program. That program, according to Pulido, has already begun to catch the eye of developers that had never set foot in the city before. With the help of the city of Los Angeles and the Valley Economic Development Center, Pulido threw a $3 million life preserver to Oh Boy! Corp. earlier this year, saving the 50-year-old company from closure and the jobs of about 150 local workers. After learning the city had only 16 senior housing units about 2,000 less than he thinks it should have Pulido secured $1 million from the state to build more. There are plans to establish a partnership with the Northeast Valley Chamber of Commerce (There’s a concept: get off the island if you want to mix and mingle.) and the YMCA, which left the city years ago, is now talking about coming back. According to Pulido, young, first-time homeowners are buying up old places, long covered with stucco, stripping them down to the wood and reviving a once-coveted collection of 1920s bungalows. Starbucks opened June 8 and you know what that means. People just might start hanging out after dark. In a word: San Fernando appears to be on its way to “cool.” Now, the really, really cool thing to do is roll up the sleeves and get a big retailer with mass appeal and a Roth-style approach to development to take notice. In the Running? West Hills resident Jay Rosenzweig is the latest to file papers for his candidacy for what would be the Eighth District council seat of a new Valley city, should a ballot initiative on secession be passed by the voters this November. The 42-year-old Chicago native owns Woodland Hills-based JR Investigations. He said he’s joined the fight to break up the city because, after 28 years of living here, he thinks it’s time government were more accessible. “I want to get the Valley thriving,” said Rosenzweig. “I don’t think the Valley will just survive on its own, it’s going to thrive on its own.” Rosenzweig said the primary focus of his campaign will be the secession issue itself. After all, without a yes vote on that, there’s no point in running for office. “The key is we are going to raise as much money as we can for the secession issue because obviously, if that doesn’t pass, I have no seat,” said Rosenzweig. “I’ll hold fundraisers and have a formal white sheet for my campaign eventually, but right now the primary focus is on secession itself.” Jacqueline Fox is politics reporter at the Business Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.