By Gary Walker
Outlaws Bar & Grille, a fixture in Playa del Rey since 1984, closed for business earlier this month — a signal, according to some residents, of further changes to come in the neighborhood.
The 230 Culver Blvd. restaurant’s landlord, Legado Co., is planning to convert a triangular shaped parcel at 138 Culver Blvd. — known locally as Jake’s Lot — into a mixed-use development that would include 72 apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space. A Christmas tree lot now occupies the parcel slated to become Legado del Mar.
The Outlaws property may also figure into Legado’s development plans. The company’s website lists that parcel as Legado del Rey, a development with specifics “to be determined.” Earlier this year, Legado had projected it to be a mixed-use project with 63 apartments and 11,000 square feet of retail.
In July, Legado Co. Vice President Heather Lee said her company has no immediate plans for the Outlaws and 700 square feet of nearby beachfront property.
“I have not seen any plans for any other parcel [other than Jake’s Lot],” Lee said in July.
Benjamin Resnick, an attorney representing Legado, said the company had until recently been allowing Outlaws to make lower lease payments to help the business through troubled times.
“For two years, Outlaws has been operating with a reduced rate on their lease,” Resnick said. “The subsidized lease rate expired recently.”
Outlaws’ owners did not return calls.
As Playa del Rey’s principal thoroughfare, Culver Boulevard represents the face of the community that many residents fear isn’t changing for the better.
Robert Krauch, a local historian and 50-year Playa del Rey resident, says the closing of Outlaws is the latest sign development will change the complexion of the neighborhood.
Seeing Outlaws closed will “further aggravate people down here,” said Krauch. “By closing Outlaws, [Legado] is making themselves into the villain.”
“These people do not care about our community,” Michael Gemme, who lives near the project site on Montreal Street, told the planning and land use committee of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester – Playa in July.
How the boulevard will look after development was discussed over several community meetings last year. Members of a 10-person community design overlay committee created a set of guidelines that they hope would be included in the planning documents when Legado begins constructing its projects.
Lee’s statement that the Outlaws property was not an actively planned development site had surprised Cheryl Burnett, a member of the neighborhood council and the committee.
“It was especially shocking given that we have heard specific plans for their two other projects for five years now,” Burnett added.
Reznik said market factors would determine if his client would choose to develop the Outlaws and beachfront properties and that his client has no pending applications for the two sites.
The planning and land use committee voted for approval of the Legado del Mar development at 138 Culver Blvd. project on Tuesday. The project now moves to a vote of the neighborhood council before heading to the city Planning Dept. next year.
The committee had tabled a vote in July due in part to dissatisfaction with a traffic study.
Reznick noted that Outlaws was not the only business that was having a difficult time making ends meet. “Several local restaurants are struggling,” he said.
Supporters of the Legado project, including the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce, believe that the new restaurants and businesses could inject life into the community’s downtown area.
David Gordon, who owns of Gordon’s Market on Culver Boulevard, across from Outlaws, said at a community design overlay meeting that Playa del Rey would remain a ghost town without development.
But Krauch thinks the projects will create what many opponents dread in an area starved for parking.
“This is really going to make the area more congested,” he said.