Spoonful of History

Sixty demonstrators, including more than a dozen former employees, protested the proposed tear-down of the old Van de Kamp‘s Bakery headquarters last Saturday afternoon. Developers Larry and Ralph Cimmarusti want to raze the historic structure to make room for a HomeBase and a Burger King. The 1930 factory’s Dutch facade is Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument Number 569, and the entire building, at San Fernando Road and Fletcher Drive, is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Neither listing, however, precludes the building‘s demolition.

The Coalition To Save Van de Kamp’s Bakery has the support of 20 community groups, as well as state Senator Richard Polanco and state Assemblyman Scott Wildman, who spoke at the protest. Wildman, whose Glendale district begins across the street from the project, says that the desire for sales taxes paid by big-box retail stores is destroying communities statewide. He serves on a committee that is trying to reform the municipal finance structure that encourages such development.

“I also plan on speaking to Doug Ring, from the Children‘s Museum, about the site, because there are a great number of children in that immediate area whose needs are currently going unserved. This is about livable communities, and people having control over their communities,” Wildman says.

The demonstration was called to publicize the public-comment period on the draft environmental report, which ends Monday. After that, the developers will have a chance to address issues, a final Environmental Impact Report will be prepared, and the matter will go before a zoning administrator for a final decision.

The draft report says the environmentally superior alternative to the project would be adaptive reuse of the building, which the Cimmarustis say is impossible financially. The brothers have offered to create a similar facade for the new HomeBase and to maintain a display of photographs explaining the history of the site.

As the final decision nears, the battle over the future of the site is growing contentious.

Charges of threats and intimidation are being leveled from both sides. Developer Ralph Cimmarusti says the opposition is so much sour grapes: “The reality is this property sat 10 years, nobody had any ideas, somebody steps up -- there are people in the world that do not like to see progress, they don’t like to see people go to work.”

The Cimmarustis, who own 140 Burger King and Tony Roma franchises, operate a Burger King across the street from the current site. They were drawn to Van de Kamp‘s as a way to provide more parking for their restaurant, and got HomeBase to sign on to the project.

Coalition founder Andrew Garsten says the intimidation began after he made two calls to Burger King corporate headquarters to inquire about the proposed restaurant. Garsten says Larry Cimmarusti suggested that he retain legal counsel.

The Cimmarustis deny making any threats and say Garsten misconstrued a general statement about the coalition’s need to obtain lawyers if the project is approved and the coalition wishes to continue opposition. The Cimmarustis say they filed a police report against Garsten because he suggested at a recent meeting between Ralph Cimmarusti and coalition members that the group might stage protests at the Cimmarustis‘ homes. Glendale police confirm that a report was taken, but say it is not illegal to protest in front of someone’s home.

The draft environmental report also found:

• Traffic at the intersection is rated F, the worst rating for traffic flow. The Cimmarustis say they will widen the road at the entrance to the Glendale freeway‘s southbound entrance. The report says that will not solve the traffic problem.

• Air pollution will get worse with nitrogen emissions above the threshold established by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The only group that supports the project is the Glassell Park Improvement Association. The Atwater Village Residents Association, Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce, Mount Washington Association and Echo Park Historical Society are among the 20 community groups that oppose the development. They say there are two Home Depots and a Terry’s Lumber within three miles of the bakery, along with smaller, family-run hardware stores.

Larry Cimmarusti says opposition will not sway the brothers. “I have my tenants and I‘m happy with them. I’m thrilled to death to redevelop that entire corner.”


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