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[whitespace] Neighbors apprehensive over plans for Longs

Willow Glen--Longs Drug Store may be moving onto Lincoln Avenue, but don't expect Glenites to throw a housewarming party for their new neighbor.

Local residents voiced concerns about parking, traffic, noise and the architect's rendering of what some considered to be a "strip-mall" building facade at two community meetings last week.

"Longs wants to be a good neighbor," said John Machado, vice president, retail properties division, for Colliers International. "We want to take care of your prescription needs. And we want to open a business."

But try as they may, Longs representatives have been unable to convince the community that their aim is true.

Longs officials on Nov. 9 first met with the neighbors of the vacated Washington Mutual building at Lincoln and Brace avenues, unveiling architects' footprint of a 12,500-square-foot drug store. The existing bank building occupies 6,500 square feet.

"It's not a typical Longs," said Craig Miers, one of the architects involved in the project, referring to several awnings, and shorter design elements over doors and windows, giving the building the look of a cluster of smaller business, he said. "It's one that will blend with the downtown fabric of Willow Glen."

Not everyone agreed.

"It looks like what I've seen before in every other suburban community," J. Michael Gonzales, president of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association, said the following night, when Longs presented the plans to the WGNA board. "It screams out 'Longs'."

Longs has not decided whether to keep or bulldoze the existing building. It has decided the new store will be a Longs pharmacy--a smaller version of Longs drug store, Machado said. "It's basically a scaled-down store. One of the key elements are prescriptions."

Longs pharmacies typically sell magazines, cards, alcohol and health and beauty supplies, Machado said. The stores don't sell patio furniture.

More threatening than the design elements, however, is the potential for noisy employees, shopping carts and increased traffic along an already congested Lincoln Avenue, neighbors say.

"Our bedrooms are right above the parking lot wall," said Donna Green. "If they are going to be open till 10 at night, we're going to hear cars starting, doors slamming, not to mention the noise from the shopping carts going across the pavement."

Typical hours at Longs stores are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, although Lincoln Avenue hours are not set in stone.

"I also have a concern about them selling the beer and wine," Green added. "I envision people sitting out there and drinking their beer, extra trash thrown out in the parking lot--it's certainly something to be concerned about."

Lincoln Avenue businesses are also concerned that chain stores like Longs will continue to push the independents along Lincoln Avenue out of business.

Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Co. owner Chris Carris says Longs merchandise will be in competition with 45 of the existing businesses along the avenue. "That's capitalism," Longs architect George Ramstad said. "We're a pharmacy. That's our primary business."

"Good neighbor" was not part of the response.
Jessica Lyons

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Web extra to the November 18-24, 1999 issue of Metro.

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