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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Supporters of Trancas Nursery Rally against 30-Day Eviction Notice

• No One Will Identify the New Owners of West Malibu Shopping Center Slated for Expansion

BY BILL KOENEKER

The Trancas Canyon Nursery, formerly known as the Malibu Garden Center, where Sea Lily flowers is also located, has been the focus over the past two weeks of a growing legion of supporters after it was learned by the community that the garden supply and landscape business was recently given a 30-day notice to vacate its location at the Trancas Country Mart.
Petitions have been circulated, a Facebook page for the nursery has been created (Save Trancas Nursery), a protest/celebration at the nursery on May 1 at 11 a.m. is planned and supporters are organizing several other events as well.
Supporters are urging the public to attend a meeting at a private residence in the Malibu Park area on Friday at 7 p.m. For RSVP and directions email: savetrancasnursery@gmail.com
On Tuesday morning, some of the core group of supporters met with architect Doug Burdge of the local firm who did the design for the 12- to 18-month reconstruction and expansion project at the shopping center that is slated to get underway soon.
Burdge and local resident Dan Bercu have been the public faces and voices behind the shopping center makeover that has been wending its way through the city planning system for the last two years.
However, for as yet undisclosed reasons, Bercu has recently stepped out of the picture and defers all questions.
During a brief interview, Bercu remained mum and tersely responded, “It is a confidentiality issue.” However, his telephone number is still listed on the hanging banners at the center offering leasing information.
Burdge, however, has confirmed that he and his associates are still the architects of record but has also remained quiet except to acknowledge there are new owners.
Nursery supporters say it is critical to learn who the new owners are so that questions can be directed to them.
The 30-day notice which was signed and served by Kibo Property Management also includes the name Zuma Beach Properties, LLC.
When the Zuma Beach Properties office, which is located in St. Louis, Missouri, was telephoned, the answering service operator who picked up the call responded Paige Sports Entertainment. She said she also answers the phone for Zuma Beach Properties, LLC. “I can take a message for them. It is after 5 p.m. and the offices are closed,” she added.
According to various published reports and websites, Paige Sports Entertainment is owned by Bill Laurie, a former pro basketball player, who is the husband of Nancy Walton Laurie. Several other Laurie business ventures are reportedly located at that same address.
Nancy Walton Laurie is the daughter of the late Bud Walton, the brother and business partner of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.
When her father died, she and her sister, who is part-time Malibu resident Ann Walton Kroenke, who along with her husband Stanley Kroenke, owns the Malibu Colony Plaza, inherited a stake in Wal-Mart that is reportedly now worth billions of dollars.
Debbi Stone, who recently took over ownership of the nursery along with Carlos Cabrera, are telling folks they are currently negotiating with a law firm that represents the investors for more time to leave—possibly 90 days. They currently are on a 30-day rental agreement.
Supporters say it is not just a nursery business, but “an oasis” where children for years went to hunt for eggs during Easter, carved pumpkins at Halloween, and played with the animals all through the year at the small informal petting zoo.
Community members for the last several years have joined in the summer Saturday night barbeques and music fests.
Residents say that choosing a living tree at the nursery for Christmas and planting it when the holiday is over is a family tradition.
The growing list of supporters praise the center for its chickens, rabbits, ducks, cats and koi that have found a home in the nursery and give it a small town feel.
Stone has worked at the nursery for 26 years. The nursery’s co-owner Carlos Cabrera has been working in the Malibu community for over 25 years. The former owner Steve Stefanko decided to give up the business and move to Hawaii in December 2009.
“Carlos and I took on the nursery ourselves.We would like to be a part of the new Trancas shopping center and the new landlords will keep us in the plan,” Stone has said.
However, when the law firm who represents the investors called them back, Stone said they were told they would have to leave the property when construction starts on May 15, or no later than June, if a 90-day agreement can be reached so they can use the garden center site for grading and other construction uses.
Stone was told they could apply for a nursery site in 12 to 18 months when the remodeling is finished.
Bercu had announced the construction would start in September 2010. Later the date was changed to February 2011.
At that time, Bercu said it was a matter of resubmitting design changes to the city’s planning department.
Over a year ago, Bercu had indicated he had acquired new partners after a Chicago-based investment firm wanted out.
New partners were found, though Bercu declined to name them other than saying that they are local. But it is not clear whether there was yet another ownership change between then and now.
What has a number of nursery supporters puzzled is why the current ownership appears to be unwilling to be associated with Malibu’s westernmost shopping center.

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