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Spotlight

Spotlight BOX to come Spotlight on Lake View Terrace JENNIFER NETHERBY Staff Reporter When Willy Gonzalez opened Willy’s Bikes in the Lake View Terrace Shopping Center three years ago, dope dealers were operating a kind of illicit bazaar in the parking lot, selling everything from narcotics to food stamps. “In the old days, any (drug) you wanted to find, you could come here,” Gonzalez said. “This place was well known as a hangout. Businesses were dead. People would just go to the liquor store.” In response to the problem, store owners banded together and launched a Business Watch program, working with police and the office of then-Councilman Richard Alarcon to rid the area of drugs and vagrants. One of the most notorious spots, the Bubble Bath Car Wash, came under heavy scrutiny and was eventually closed, said Alex Tucker, a field deputy in Council District 7. While Lake View Terrace still has its problems steel bars are a common sight on the doors of many businesses lots of improvements are underway. The shopping center the main retail operation in the community is getting a fresh coat of paint, and smooth black asphalt will soon cover the pothole-marred parking lot. Down the street, Los Angeles city workers and the Army Corps of Engineers are completing $43 million in improvements to the Hansen Dam Recreation Area, a project that includes adding lakes for swimming and boating, as well as soccer and softball fields. Local businesses hope the improvements will turn Lake View Terrace into a destination spot for families and provide a desperately needed image boost for the community, which is perhaps best known as the scene of the 1992 police beating of Rodney King. Eddie Milligan, operator of the Hansen Dam equestrian center, says he is encouraged by the transformation. “In the nine years I’ve been in the area, I’ve watched it change considerably,” he said. “It’s shaping up. In the future, the Hansen Dam area is going to be their claim to fame.” Meanwhile, talks are underway to relocate the San Fernando Valley Fair from the L.A. Equestrian Center near Burbank to the Hansen Dam area as soon as next year. “It looks favorable,” said Dale Coons, chief executive and manager of the fair. Located in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, Lake View Terrace is cut in half by the Foothill (210) Freeway, with apartments and the shopping center to the west and mostly middle-class homes to the east. In December, Makai Inc., a Los Angeles-based developer, bought the 65,000-square-foot Lake View Terrace Shopping Center on Terra Bella Street and Foothill Boulevard for $3.1 million. Makai has since pumped $400,000 into the facility for improvements such as air conditioning and security. “We see Lake View Terrace as a very interesting market demographically,” said Bob Jones, president of Makai. “It’s a combination of fairly high-density population and a good cross-section of household incomes.” Jones said his company is looking to lure tenants that will complement the community’s large Latino population. He’s confident the shopping center, which is now 70 percent occupied, will be 90 percent full by early next year. “For us it’s a unique opportunity,” he said. “We want to broaden the type of new tenant to include people who may have been inadvertently left out of the tenant mix.” Lake View Terrace also is getting its first library, at the corner of Osborne Street and Foothill Boulevard, with construction set to begin in the next several months. The changes are welcomed by folks like Gonzalez, who these days even ventures out the back door of his shop after 5 p.m., something he never did when drug dealing was a problem at the shopping center. He says business is increasing at his shop. “It’s small, but at least enough to pay the bills,” he said. “People need to look again (at the community) and they’ll see there’s decent businesses.”

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