More than two months after tenants on Swarthmore received notices about a contamination problem, a treatment system installed in the parking lot behind the former Emerson-LaMay Cleaners continues its operation.
Mary McDaniel, a spokesperson for the 14 trust entities operating as Pacific Palisades Properties, wrote in June that while conducting due diligence “the owners discovered [evidence of] perchloroethylene (PEC),” which has impacted soil and groundwater beneath part of the property.
In spite of the fact that PERC or PEC contamination cleanup could take years, the soil vapor extraction system, which has been installed in the parking lot close to Monument is noninvasive and will not disrupt local businesses, McDaniel told the Post in July. Part of the treatment system resembles a large dumpster with piping jutting out of its sides.
In 2007, the State took action to eliminate use of PEC/PERC by 2023 and prohibited new businesses from installing new PERC dry-cleaning machines. McDaniel told the Post “there are some statistics that say about 75 percent of the dry cleaners” in the United States have caused some type of PERC contamination.
“What they do is use a vacuum to pull the contaminants out of the soil into a treatment system,” McDaniel told the Post. Also, the sale of property does not depend on when the cleanup takes place. She said, its all matter of what the entities involved agree to do.
However, a source close to the sale recently told the Post that concerns over liability and the California Department of Toxic Substance Control’s inability to clearly define these issues for both the buyer and seller of the Village portfolio have also played a part in stalling the sale.
“When the property is tied up and you’re the real estate developer, time is on your side,” said Norman Kulla, senior lead counsel to Councilman Mike Bonin.
Representatives from Caruso Affiliated declined comment on the negotiations; except to state Tuesday that the company is in the process of “conducting its due diligence.”
Kulla said neither party has reached out to the Councilman’s office in regards to liability concerns over the contamination, adding: “This is more of a State issue.”
However, Kulla admitted the delay is “hurtful for the business climate in the Palisades Village community.”
In spite of this, Kulla said Caruso’s acquisition of that property would be a major plus for the community.
“His people have insisted that they will be operating this as a family business,” said Kulla, a former Highlands resident. “He can bring really highly qualified people to work with the envisioning of the community—he is not planning on building another Grove.”
At this point, most local real estate experts agree that the pressure is on the seller because with fewer tenants on the property (eight empty storefronts on Swarthmore alone) there is less income being generated as the deal remains in limbo. Caruso, who as the buyer has no real incentive to keep tenants in place if he totally plans to renovate the property, has the “good position,” as they say in chess.
Dismissing rumors of potential delays into next year, another source close to the sale told the Post that Caruso Affiliated is “working hard to close the deal quickly.” The source would not clarify or give an estimated date when the sale would be completed.
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