Residents of one Chula Vista community are fed up with a vacant lot in their neighborhood that they say is attracting crime and deterring business.
The Shops at San Miguel Ranch, sitting at the corner of Mt. Miguel and Proctor Valley roads, has had a 52,000 square-foot vacancy since 2013, when an Albertsons grocery store left the plaza, according to residents in the area.
Community members say the vacancy has led to an increase in crime, like drug-dealings and car-jackings, and has created a lull in traffic for other tenants.
"It’s all related to that being closed, resident Mike Watson said. "That’s the hub of the mall really."
They are now demanding that property owner Merlone Geier Partners address the problem or face legal action.
“This void in the shopping center generates problems and draws bad actors into our community,” a group called Revive the Shops at San Miguel Ranch said in a letter to Merlone Geier Partners. “Aside from the criminal element it attracts, the continued absence of an ‘anchor’ store creates an economic drag of your remaining tenants.”
The problem is, the space's former tennant, Albertsons, still holds a lease until 2023 and continues to make payments for the empty space.
"If Albertsons is going to hold out and just pay the rent every month what else can you do," Watson said.
Community members have started a petition that has gathered more than 1,200 signatures to get Albertsons out of their lease and to get another grocery store into that space.
The issue will be addressed at a community meeting Wednesday and residents hope the property owner will come up with a plan.
It is unclear if Merlone Geier Partners or a representative for Albertsons will be in attendance.
According to Merlone Geier Partners' website, The Shops at San Miguel Ranch was created as a “14-acre grocery anchored neighborhood center.” The property owner currently lists 10 vacancies online, including the 52,000 square-foot space left behind by Albertsons.
Merlone Geier Partners own five shopping centers in San Diego County and are in the process of developing a 485,000 square-foot center in downtown San Diego’s East Village, according to their website.