By Ken A. Epstein
Unless the city acts to preserve its downtown Broadway corridor, De Lauer’s – the landmark newsstand and paperback store established in 1907 at 13th and Broadway – could be replaced by a new 7-Eleven, operated by the world’s largest chain of conveniences stores, based in Dallas, TX.
The issue for those who are concerned is more than whether the city will maintain a viable business that is part of Oakland history. Also at stake is whether Broadway, Oakland’s main boulevard, will become a strip mall of fast food restaurants and chain outlets, or whether it will develop to reflect the city’s local identity.
The owners of De Lauer’s at 1310 Broadway, Fasil Lemma and Abdo Shrooh, had been struggling financially but have stabilized the business and are now operating in the black. They were stunned when they learned recently that the new owners of their building, Citrine Advisors, had leased their space to 7-Eleven.
“I have no complaints with you, (but) your rent was discounted. It seemed that you were teetering,” said Richard Weinstein, an owner of Citrine, at a small meeting Tuesday with the owners of the business and a few others concerned with the fate of De Lauer’s.
“We’ve signed a lease with 7-Eleven. They are going for a conditional use permit,” he said.
The outcome might have been different, said Weinstein, “If we had known you were making it and doing fine.” But now the lease with 7-Eleven is signed, he said, and “I don’t know what I can do about it. I have a contractual obligation.”
If the situation were different, he would gladly work with the owners of De Lauer’s, he said. “I’m very embarrassed. We are Oakland guys. We are team players.”
At this point, the decision is in the hands of city administrators. Before it is finalized, 7-Eleven’s permit application, which has just been filed, has to go through the city’s permit, zoning and review process. Unclear at this point is whether the permit application includes a license to sell beer and wine.
“I believe that there are those who have been pushing the city to do the right thing and to put their planning efforts where their mouth is,” said David Glover, executive director of OCCUR, who attended the meeting.
“The city is predisposed to look at Broadway and its identity, and (wants to ensure) that it is not going to be all fast food and franchises,” said Glover.” Oakland is not to be totally disposable but a mixture of functions.”