“I thought they were growing Christmas trees to sell in December,” one observer wrote it in a post on the Facebook page of the Ocean Beach Town Council.
Now, more than five months after Apple Tree Market went out of business, and one month after the city issued an abatement order to the Los Angeles-based property owner to clean up the area at 4949 Santa Monica Ave., the weeds are gone. So is the chain-link fence surrounding the property. And, for the most part, the homeless population that had taken up residence in a thicket of overgrown jasmine bushes has moved on.
Real commercial activity has returned for the first time all year. The lot this month reopened for self-pay parking lot customers, managed by Laz Parking, which runs several other lots in Ocean Beach.
It’s a move local business owners had sought for a long time, said Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association (OBMA).
“We’re absolutely thrilled,” Knox said. “Parking around here is so critical, especially on the weekends and in the summer. It really serves the community better than an empty lot.”
The additional parking, which contains more than 90 stalls, has already reaped benefits, according to merchants. On the first Wednesday following the reopening of the lot, merchants at the Farmers Market reported a spike in sales, Knox said.
With the parking lot now reopened, an uneasy curiosity continues about the future of the building itself, now into its sixth month of vacancy. Several OBMA members have communicated with the building’s owner, Elliot Megdal, a Los Angeles-based Realtor, but Knox said she has heard nothing about Megdal’s plans for redevelopment.
One clue could reside in a document called a notice of intent that Megdal was ordered to file in response to the city’s abatement order on May 1. Megdal was required to state whether he planned to demolish, rehabilitate, lease or sell the building. Megdal was further ordered to submit a timeline for bringing the property back into productive use.
Officials for the city’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Division, which issued the abatement order, have not responded to numerous phone calls and emails for this story.
“There’s no good source of information on this. It’s wait and see,” Knox said.