Calexico council denies landowner a use permit for big-rig parking lot

October 10, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — By a 3-2 vote, the City Council here denied the owner of 7 acres near the downtown Port of Entry a conditional-use permit to build a big-rig parking lot on his land.

City Attorney Michael Rood called the council's action "a tough decision" but said it would withstand any legal challenges brought by the landowner, Raymond Lopez.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison, councilmen Frank Montoya and Gilbert Grijalva voted against issuing the permit for a truck lot. Mayor Victor Carrillo and councilman Javier Alatorre voted to issue the permit.

After the vote, Lopez and his real estate consultant, Marvin Mayne, vowed to take legal action.

"I think a lawyer will take care of this," Lopez said.

Months ago Lopez submitted an application for a conditional-use permit to build the truck parking lot. He needed the permit because his land is not zoned for a truck lot, according to city Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa.


To secure a conditional-use permit, Lopez agreed he would add security lighting and a night watchman at his lot — conditions the city couldn't impose if he weren't requesting a conditional-use permit.

The Planning Commission voted to issue the permit after a group of truckers told the commission their rigs were being vandalized in unsupervised city lots.

When the council denied the issuance of the permit Tuesday it was the second time in recent months a decision by the Planning Commission has been overturned.

Before making its decision, the council heard from parties for and against the truck lot.

One of the principal opponents of the truck lot was Calexico real estate agent Linda Barrientos.

She has been working with Los Angeles developers M&A Gabay, who want to build a shopping mall near the downtown port of entry and the New River. An important portion of that project is the 7 acres owned by Lopez.

Lopez's land sits opposite the Vons supermarket on First Street, near the port.

Gabay told the council his shopping mall would be built in phases — the first phase planned on land owned by Lopez.

Under questioning from Lopez's real estate agent, Gabay conceded his firm doesn't own the land it is planning to build on and couldn't buy the land without financial assistance from the city.

"We need a loan," Gabay said.

Mayne asked Gabay how much money he needs, saying, "Can you give us a ballpark figure?"

Gabay didn't mention financial specifics Tuesday.

At a council meeting last month, Gabay said his firm would need 75 percent of the cost of the land — more than $3 million.

At that meeting the council decided to consider giving Gabay the "low-interest loan."

If the council gives Gabay the loan it will do so with assurance that the developers will live up to their end of the bargain, according to Rood.

After Tuesday's meeting, Rood explained the situation facing the city.

He said the Los Angeles developers have submitted a development agreement to the city.

If the development agreement is approved by the council, Gabay will get millions in the form of a low-interest loan.

Rood acknowledged that usually a development agreement is negotiated after a project has been approved.

In this case, the developers are asking the city for money to buy land before submitting a public application containing their specific plans for the land.

Rood was asked if this would give the Los Angeles developers an unfair advantage over landowners such as Lopez who went through the city's public permitting system.

Rood said there has been no decision on the agreement by the council and no decision can be made without a public vote.

Before if it even gets to a vote, Rood said the agreement would be examined and negotiated by a specialist familiar with the financial and legal aspects involved in the project.

Lopez said if the city decides to give Gabay the money he would consider selling — "for the right price."

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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