The Bakersfield businessman who’s trying to open a surf shop in the Village of Arroyo Grande is ready to throw in the towel. We hope he reconsiders, because we believe his shop would be an asset to the Village.
As Tribune staff writer Cynthia Lambert reported last week, Doug DeBerti says he’s so fed up with the way the city handled his application that he’s put the building up for sale and is talking about opening his surf shop in Grover Beach.
If that happens, it will be a missed opportunity both for the city of Arroyo Grande and for DeBerti.
We say this because the building that DeBerti purchased — the former JJ’s Market — has been vacant for more than three years. It would be far better to have a retail store there than an empty shell. It would mean more tax revenue for the city, more employment for local residents and more variety of merchandise in the Village. (Keep in mind, DeBerti plans to stock not just surfboards, but also clothing and other beach-related items.)
This also is an opportunity to vastly improve the look of the building, which, in its former life as a grocery store, could best be described as bland, boxy and boring. On top of that, the adjacent parking lot was rutted, poorly designed and devoid of any landscaping.
DeBerti already has made several improvements, and was prepared to do more when he abruptly walked away from the project. He said he was tired of being given conflicting direction in regard to landscaping and other issues, so tired that he spray- painted a snarky comment — “Building for sale. Thanks City of AG.” — on the front windows of the building.
We understand his frustration, yet we agree that regulations are necessary to ensure that the Village retains its character and doesn’t devolve into another strip mall.
But here’s the rub: If the city develops a reputation for being too persnickety and/or too arbitrary, that will discourage new businesses from coming to the Village, and we’ll likely see more vacant storefronts.
We urge the city to review its policies to ensure that 1) applicants who have projects in the Village are aware of the rules and regulations early in the process and 2) that the permitting process is as streamlined and straightforward as possible, to avoid giving applicants conflicting information.
As for DeBerti, we urge him to put away the spray paint and give city officials a break.