Merlone Geier seeks permit for "intimidating" fence
San Antonio Shopping Center developer Merlone Geier has not given up on its controversial efforts to put up a fence that several businesses and a property owners say is a way to force a land sale.
Zoning administrator Peter Gilli was set to decide on the fence on Wednesday, Aug. 22, but Merlone Geier pulled its application at the last minute as city staff push the firm to work with the businesses to come up with an amenable solution.
The developer has proposed a 6-foot tall wrought iron fence to go behind Baron Park Plumbing Supply, International Halal Market and an office building next door. The proposal will likely return for approval sometime before holiday shopping season, said planner Melinda Denis.
Gilli was set to decide on July 25 but "I continued the item from the July 25 hearing because I didn't have enough information to support the fence at the time," Gilli said in an email.
"It's ridiculous, we've been here 40 years and there's not been a fence," said Charles Riegler, co owner of Baron Park plumbing Supply. "We definitely don't need it right now."
While the supply store will still have adequate parking in front, "the purpose of the fence would be to restrict access," said Paul Brunmeier, Riegler's business partner. "It's an example of, in my opinion, a bullying tactic by the developer to put existing successful Mountain View businesses in a poor state if not try to force them out of business altogether so they could obtain this land cheaper for their own plans."
Merlone Geier managing director Greg Geertsen has denied that his company was putting on the pressure for owners to accept his company's offers to buy all five properties on the corner.
"That is not the intent at all," he said in May. "The intent is to protect our property rights."
The customers and employees of the businesses at San Antonio Road and California Street, with the exclusion of Milk Pail Market, "do not have the right, by agreement or easement, to park on San Antonio shopping center," Geertsen said. "We have to enforce these rights."
If the five owners don't sell, "the project will be built around them," Geertsen said. "They won't have future access to the parking lot. I believe they'll have parking on their own parcels."
Brunmeier said the International Halal market next door would be affected even more because the proposed fence would block the exit for its driveway, which Denis confirmed the proposed fence would do.
"It killed my business," said Mehran Farshad, co-owner of the International Halal Market of the cyclone fence in the same place that blocked his driveway's exit into San Antonio shopping center in May. "People saw they could not exit, so they did not enter the property."
In May the development firm ordered the installation of the cyclone fence without approval from the city, resulting in an outcry from residents that reflected badly on the developer while the City Council was weighing its plans.
Denis said the city wants Merlone Geier to work with the market and Baron Park, adding that there's now support from adjacent office building owner Dave Pilling for the fence as long as it is put up when the Ross and BevMo! property is redeveloped. Pilling opposed it previously, going as far as to remove and disassemble the cyclone fence behind his building himself because his tenants had complained.
Denis said the developer is trying to preserve parking. Merlone Geier claims that "because they are in the process of purchasing the Ross and BevMo! parcel they need to maintain a certain number of parking spaces for Ross," Denis said. "And because they are starting to get into the holiday shopping season, Ross does get more crowded." She added that Merlone Geier needs parking space for construction workers as well.
Brunmeier and his partner Charles Riegler question claims that more parking is needed.
"They get there much earlier than any of our patrons do," Brunmeier said of the construction workers. "The fence doesn't help them in any way."
Brunmeier added that the customers of Halal International Market never park in the lot that will be fenced off.
Another business at the corner that Merlone Geier seeks to buy is the Milk Pail market. Owner Steve Rasmussen said he will not have enough parking in his lot under city requirements if Merlone Geier is successful in its plans and his agreement to share the Ross and BevMo! lot is not renewed.
Comments from Merlone Geier about the fence proposal were not available by press time.
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