So as many of you guys know, there was a public hearing on 6/24 at the Azusa Civic Auditorium. The hearing was to have a city council approve 2 multiple use permits required for me to open Super Arcade in the location I have had reserved since the beginning of April. I was informed that this was just a basic formality and I should be approved with no problem. Regardless, I still had my guard up and attempted to prepare for the meeting to the best of my ability. I was sent an email with the schedule and just worked on a plan on how to defend the arcade culture if any questions were to come up. Well surprise surprise........ I was denied the permits and oddly enough, it wasn't for the reasons expected.
There was a panel of 5 people who were appointed to represent and make a decision for the city. Right off the bat, one of the members stepped down and decided to participate as a public civilian to maintain a non-bias in decision making. I had mixed feelings about this due to the fact that firstly, I just increased my chances by eliminating a negative vote, but then I was also worried that this gentleman felt so strongly about opposing the issue that it might really cause some problems. Regardless, he was one of the 5 people who spoke out against me. So for those of you who didn't have time to tune into the live stream, here is a link : Public Hearing City of Azusa 6/24/15
The main arguments against me that evening included some of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Just going into the meeting I had an eerie feeling that somehow I was walking into a lose lose situation. These people that showed up to speak against me were on a first name basis with the council members and obviously attended these meetings many times. Im not saying that they have nothing better to do, but after hearing their concerns, I believe they are just negative people and just get off thinking they know everything. The first person to step up complained about the strip mall. Mind you, she had nothing to complain about in terms of an arcade, just that the location I was trying to occupy was a "retail shopping center" and people coming to shop there would not have anything to look forward to. She also mentioned that there was a ton of fights, killings, and even a case of rape. Without mentioning specifics, she stated the owner of the strip mall was not doing the city any favors and it seems as if she just had a vendetta against him.
The second lady to speak against me mentioned that the strip mall has encountered many problems and how they lost their market recently that was located in the mall. She also stated that "this gentleman thinks its Disneyland here," referring to me obviously, and saying that I'm in for a surprise. She also spoke on the requirements for having a security on duty and felt that having so much security would scare people away from even coming to the shopping center. Her closing arguments were that she wanted a "Whole Foods" a "homework center" or a "bike shop" to show up instead of an arcade.
The third person to speak up was the council member who stepped down. I was extremely interested in hearing what he had to say, since he felt it was worth it for him to step down and speak. Surprisingly, his main argument was about the restroom. Apparently, on the blueprints he was looking at, the unit I was trying to lease did not have a restroom. I would honestly think that it's common sense that every unit includes a restroom. Hell, theres 8 restrooms upstairs if they really want to get picky. Anyways, his issue became a complaint that people were urinating in the alley behind the shopping center and hanging around the parking lot. He then went on to look at the layout I had proposed for the arcade and stated that the "console stations" would be blocking the view of the arcade and people could use these "blind spots" to commit crimes. Lol? He doesn't even understand that the console stations are just sit down cubicles and making assumptions. He then goes on to share his studies he found while attending a library and mentioned an arcade in Seattle where a robbery took place. His example came from a library and the only thing he could find was an incident that happened in Seattle? And mind you this incident was at a Game Stop, not an arcade. So much for this gentleman being prepared.......
On to the fourth lady. This lady felt that the arcade is going to generate more crimes and more problems for the shopping center that is already dirty....... She then goes on to tell a story of how she was with her daughter and they drove up to watch a person urinate in the parking lot at that shopping center. She also states that only having 1 restroom would lead to more of this and was against the arcade. I have no comment regarding her statements as they pretty much speak for itself.
And onto the final speaker. This gentleman was actually pretty well spoken and including building codes and what not in his argument. If you knew nothing about what was going on, you would actually think he was very on point and knew exactly what was going on. He was the one that complained about the strip mall not following a code of being only 15% non-retail and went on to mention that the new Gym would already swallow up that 15% leaving me with no leeway. But he did not know that the city approved the Gym to be exempt from this rule so his argument about this was very pointless. He then goes on to insult gamers. He states that gaming is not a "high quality of life for any community" and asks the council to reconsider allowing me to open shop.
So after sitting through all this, I am just shocked. There is no argument I can make about people pissing on the walls, gaming not being a higher quality of life, and a market closing its doors. I was well prepared to fight tooth and nail on defending arcades, and how we bring people together from all walks of life. After being blindsided, I spoke up a couple times stating that people hang around due to the fact that the plaza is 50% vacant, and people only hang around the areas where there are no businesses open. I also stated that the arcade brought in a ton of business for surrounding businesses and we have proof of that. Another concern was the arcade was bringing criminals, but I stated numerous times that the Azusa Police Department contacted the Walnut/Diamond Bar Sheriff about our history and that came up flawless. The funny thing is, they were not even listening to me. Two of the four council members praised me for my efforts but still voted against me, one gentleman was all for opening up an arcade, and the last gentleman said he would love to have an arcade in the city, just not at that particular location. So that came out to a 3-1 loss and now it's time to regroup and figure out my next step. After sleeping on it, I wrote an email to the city planners and requested a meeting to discuss the appeal process and see what I could do about this decision. I received a reply and fortunately I was able to meet up with them this Tuesday so I didn't have to sulk in the sorrows of being denied for too long.
Overall, I feel as though the meeting went well. This was not a meeting where any ground was to be made in overturning the decision, but it was one where I was able to weigh out my options and figure out what my next step was. So all in all, on Wednesday July 15th at 7:00pm there will be another public hearing scheduled to make the decision final from the previous meeting. At this hearing, I will be allowed to once again plead my case and others are welcome to do so as well. This time around I hope people will show up in full force so that the city can see just how much of a positive impact our community can bring to this town and how we are not the low life scum they have made us out to be. The landlord and leasing company have an appointment with the city next week and I will have another update.
It is after 3:00am at the moment so I apologize for all the grammatical errors in this post. I promised to have a blogpost done today and didn't want to leave something unfinished so the product isn't exactly the best. I also woke up at 7:00am this morning to make sure I was on time to my meeting so I do have a bit of excuse haha. Thanks again for reading and talk to you all again soon!