Where once the residents of Pacific Beach bought stamps and mailed packages, they will soon be squeezing tomatoes and weighing bananas. And where once they watched X-rated films or saw rock concerts, they may soon be buying stamps and mailing packages. In a somewhat confusing series of events, the Pacific Beach Post Office has lost its lease and now it appears the Roxy Theatre on nearby Cass Street will be razed to make way for a new post office.
The beach community’s only post office has been located at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Fanuel Street for the past eleven years, situated in a building rented from Vernon Taylor, who owns a large amount of property throughout Pacific Beach. Although Taylor warned postal officials last December that the lease would terminate in one year, on December 31, 1980, he received no reply to his warning until the following April, at which time the scramble for a new site began.
The building which now houses the post office was built in 1945 by Taylor’s father and cousin. It was used as a market (John’s, then Big Ace, then Mayfair) until 1970, when it was leased as a post office. The agreement gave the post service a five-year lease with six renewable one-year leases, with a monthly rent of $2045. Now that the one-year optional leases have expired, Taylor has decided he doesn’t want to deal with the post office any longer. A source close to the negotiations between Taylor and the postal service says that Taylor was upset that the post office would not agree to a cost-of-living rent increase, and that Taylor was forced to do extensive maintenance on the facility because of the concentrates use of the building. Taylor, though, says he never complained about these things.
Taylor sent the letter last December to postal officials at the western regional office in San Bruno, California. “I explained to them that while it was not an impossibility that their lease should be extended,” Taylor says, “I said that it was neither my expectation nor my desire to extend it. My purpose in sending the letter was basically just a courtesy.”
It was a courtesy that was unacknowledged by the postal service. In April Taylor remarked to a friend, who had connections with the postal officials in Los Angeles, that he had received no response to his letter. Later that same day, Taylor was telephoned by a postal official who wanted to know why the lease would not be renewed. By this time, however Taylor had already made a verbal commitment to Windmill Farms Markets for the post office site. (A realtor familiar with rents charged in the Pacific Beach business district says Taylor could expect to receive about three times what the post office has been paying for rent.)
A spokesman for the postal service in San Bruno, Jerry Reynolds, said in a telephone interview last week that the postal service did not necessarily believe Taylor’s warning “we had information that there was a chance we would be able to renew our lease with Mr. Taylor,” Reynolds said, without specifying where he got such faulty information. “Now it’s clear that that is not the case.”
Last August the postal service contracted the owner of the Roxy Theatre, Scott Shore, about buying the property for a new post office. As Shore puts it, ‘We went back and forth, back and forth on a deal. I’d make them an offer, they’d reject it and come back with a counteroffer.” Two weeks ago Shore gave the postal service an option on the property. Shore would not say how much he is asking for the property, but several property experts estimate the price tag is around one million dollars.
Currently the theatre is leased on a short-term basis to Family Enterprises, which is now showing the adults-only film Caligula, (Family enterprises also runs the Flower Hill Cinemas in Del Mar.)
The theater has become something of a financial burden to Shore, who has owned the Roxy for three years. “We’ve tried using it for concerts and we’ve used it to show movies,” says Shore, “but it seems that people just aren’t willing to patronize it. The theater situation is no longer workable. I guess this [the proposed sale to the postal service] is the inevitable solution.”
The Roxy sits on a plot of land that measures 31,250 square feet, but the post office has said an ideal piece of property would be nearer to 70,000 square feet. However, there are few, if any, available pieces of property that large within the central Pacific Beach business area. If and when the Roxy purchase becomes final (perhaps by next January), the post office will more than likely raze the theater and erect a new structure better suited for a post office.
The postal service hired a firm, the Beland Corporation of Los Angeles, to conduct environmental and attitude surveys to find out if the purchase of the Roxy would be practical and if it would be acceptable to the area residents from an aesthetic standpoint. Two postal officials attended a meeting of the Pacific beach Town Council in mid-October to answer questions from het residents. According to several people in attendance, the officials were vague as to their plans, and many people left the meeting more confused than when they arrived.
At the moment, however, it looks as if the post office will move into temporary quarters in an office building across the street from the present site. A customer-service center will be located on the ground floor while the second floor will be used for the post office executives. The actual sorting of the mail will be done at the main San Diego post office on Midway Drive. Taylor says he would consider giving the post office a thirty-to-sixty day extension—with the approval of his new tenants—if the post office needed extra time to move into the temporary location.
But while customers of the post office may be confused for a while, some people see a benefit in the forced relocation of the post office. Mary Wilding, the executive secretary of the Pacific Beach Town Council, says a post office on the Roxy site might encourage more retail businesses to locate on commercially zoned Cass Street, which has very few such businesses. She also says the Roxy has no historical value. “It’s a dinosaur,” Wilding says, “We don’t really need a big, old fashioned theater in that neighborhood. And in the last few years, there’ve been nothing but problems; first rock concerts and now X-rated movies.”
If, as Wilding says, there are positive reasons in favor of the post office’s move, they may not be enough to overcome the resentment of many local citizens who feel they’ve been kept in the dark far too long.
“But I think we realize that this is just bureaucracy, and that this is how it works,”
Wilding says, “And the bigger the bureaucracy, the bigger the screw-up.”