Pat Kernighan—city council member for District 2, which includes the Grand Lake business district—writes that she does not believe the proposed Out of the Closet thrift store would be a good fit for Lakeshore Avenue. She is working with the broker to encourage a more suitable tenant. Council member Kernighan will convene a meeting to facilitate greater, and proactive, community involvement in the future of the business district.

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I have heard from about 15 neighbors who are not happy that the “Out of the Closet” thrift store may be the new tenant of the vacant Kids Gap space, and from 3 neighbors who like the idea. I personally don’t think it’s a good fit for Lakeshore. Below is a summary of my communications with the parties in an effort to get a more desirable store to come to that space.

[See also Ken Katz’s article “Retail vacancies pose opportunity for community input.”]

I learned about the owner’s negotiations with the thrift shop on January 15 when my staff member attended the meeting of the Lakeshore Avenue Business Improvement District (the association of property owners on the street). We were told the property owner and Out of the Closet were close to reaching a deal.

I immediately contacted the owner’s broker, Steve Banker of LCB Associates, and told him that a thrift store would not be welcomed by the majority of area residents. I also called and spoke with Out of the Closet’s broker and the Board President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which runs the thrift stores. I explained that Lakeshore is trying hard to attract more shoppers with disposable income to keep all the stores in business and that a thrift store would lead in the other direction. There is also a lot of concern about drop-offs of used goods after store hours, creating a blight problem. Further, the Lakeshore shopping area is very small, so the impact of what is in each retail space is disproportionally greater than in a larger shopping area like College Avenue.

My arguments were listened to but did not seem to deter the resolve of the representatives for Out of the Closet. Steve Banker said that unless a better offer came along, the owner would likely lease to Out of the Closet. I then contacted two retail brokers I know to ask them to send some potential clients to LCB. I’ve been keeping in touch with Steve Banker and he has been showing the space to other potential tenants as well.

Realistically, the most likely way to avert the space becoming a thrift shop is for some better tenant to come along quickly. The owners, which are a family trust, do not want the space to sit empty.

I have forwarded all the email comments I have received directly to Steve Banker, broker for the owners, so he can hear for himself what the neighborhood thinks. I suggest that anyone who feels strongly one way of the other contact him directly. His brokerage phone is listed on the for-lease sign on the building and LCB Associates has a website.

[Editor’s note: LCB Associates’ web site is Their phone number is 510-763-7016.]

This situation is a case in point of the difficulty of influencing choice of retail stores when the community and the Council are in a reactive mode. I would very much like to see a group of community members organize a proactive process of doing surveys of community sentiment and sharing that information with all the property owners on the street in advance of vacancies coming up. The community could also affirmatively contact and recruit desired retailers. I will advertise a preliminary meeting to do this in my next newsletter.