Owner of former Apple Tree Market property ordered to clean up site
by Tony De Garate
Published - 05/15/13 - 03:33 PM | 4466 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A sign warns passersby to stay off the vacant property where the Apple Tree Market in Ocean Beach once thrived. 
                                                             Photo by Tony de Garate I The Beacon
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The former Apple Tree Market property in Ocean Beach “poses a serious threat to the public’s health and safety” and has been declared a “public nuisance” under the terms of a notice of abatement issued by the city May 1.

The building, located at 4949 Santa Monica Ave., became vacant when the grocery store lost its lease at the end of last year. Since then, nearby businesses, apartment owners and residents have complained about homeless people finding shelter beneath a long row of overgrown jasmine bushes, along with uncollected trash and tall weeds cropping up through cracks in the asphalt parking lot.

An inspection of the property April 22 made the same findings, the document shows.

The building and surrounding property was found to be “vacant with trash and evidence of transient encampment,” according to a letter signed by Keith Cleveland, land development investigator for the city’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Division.

The property owner, Elliot Megdal, a Los Angeles-based real-estate developer, was ordered within 10 days to board up and secure the building, cut back the bushes, clear away all weeds and trash, and monitor the property to prevent homeless activity. About a week after the order was issued, a cleanup crew appeared, said police Lt. Natalie Stone.

“He’s been very cooperative,” said Stone, who added she’s been in contact with Megdal several times to relay complaints and urge him to take action.

The future of the building, now into its fifth month of vacancy, is unclear. Megdal has 30 days to declare whether he intends to demolish or rehabilitate the building or find a lawful occupant. He must also submit a timeline for completion to the city or face civil penalties, according to the notice of abatement.

A “for lease” sign that remains on the building suggests Megdal is still looking for a tenant, but he declined comment for this story through his office staff, and Cleveland did not return phone calls last week.

Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, praised Megdal for hiring two local companies to do the cleanup, but suggested the effort was a work in progress.

“They did a great job,” Knox said of companies Peninsula Landscaping and A Veteran Hauling, which reportedly filled up a 10-yard-long truck three times with more than a ton of brush and debris.

But the parking lot weeds — some well over a foot tall — remain, Knox said. A follow-up inspection had been scheduled May 13. The city charges a fee of $269 or $288 for every failed inspection and may impose other civil and criminal penalties, according to the notice of abatement.

Knox was critical, however, of Megdal’s decision to install a chain-link fence around the property instead of hiring a company to keep the lot open for paid parking.

“It’s nice he cleaned up around the building and got rid of the hiding places,” Knox said, “But any time you gate off a large property in a small community like that, and weeds are growing inside, it’s still terrible.”

Knox said local businesses support the idea of opening the parking lot, which contains roughly 90 stalls, and she’s hopeful Megdal will embrace the idea in time for the summer tourist season.

“I think (Megdal) knows this community really cares about what happens, so I hope he works with us to find a solution,” Knox said.

She said she’s not hopeful, however, of another supermarket moving in. Her office regularly receives inquiries from people seeking general information about the building — the property’s zoning and the like — but interest from grocery stores seems to have dried up, Knox said.

“I don’t think he (Megdal) knew it was going to take this long to find a tenant,” Knox said.

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