Failure to Communicate With the City Threatening Sun Valley Development
By SHELLY GARCIA
San Fernando Valley Business Journal
A much lauded development that promised to bring hundreds of jobs to the Northeast San Fernando Valley is drawing fire from city officials who are threatening to shut down the project if its plans and ownership are not clarified.
City officials say the developer, Sunquest Development LLC, is overdue in providing information required for about $10 million in government financing that has been tentatively approved for the project.
Some of the partners have changed since the developer first began negotiations with the city more than three years ago for 20 acres of land that was the former site of the Branford Landfill and a Sanitation Bureau yard. Remediation problems also have plagued the Sun Valley development.
As a result, the project likely will be downscaled to 300,000 square feet of light industrial space from the 550,000 square feet first envisioned.
None of those changes has been conveyed to city officials, who say they have not been able to clarify the status of the project or even who is running the show.
“Not one dime of public money will be spent until we have an absolutely clear picture of who’s running Sunquest,” said David Gershwin, a spokesman for City Councilman Alex Padilla, in whose district the project falls.
Randy Roth, listed as managing member of Sunquest, said in a voicemail message that he continues to be in charge of the project. “Sunquest development is being built. It’s on its way,” Roth said. “Our plans are in plan check. We are applying for permits.”
Before approving the sale of city land to Sunquest, officials stressed the jobs it would bring to the area. A smaller project would presumably bring far fewer jobs and perhaps a re-evaluation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on loan and grant applications.
But first, city officials have to nail down the details, and it has been months since most of those involved have heard from anyone on the team.
Gershwin said, “Clearly this development team is acting in a way where they are not informing the city of their goings on a day-to-day basis. I think it’s fair to say this development team has been operating in a black hole.”
One explanation could be that the developers are still working through numerous problems on the site.
The landfill is decades old and the maps of the property have not proven to be accurate, said Barbara Emmons, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis, who is representing Sunquest in marketing the site to users.
Emmons said that until the developers determine where the landfill areas are, they cannot know where structures can be built.
Inline Distributing Co., which distributes asbestos abatement products, signed a $7 million deal to buy a 122,000 build-to-suit on the property two years ago and has been waiting since then for construction to begin.
“We have a plan drawn for them, and we want to move forward,” Emmons said. “We have two other proposals outstanding. Activity has never been the problem. It’s been the entitlements and the process.”