Operating a business in Fallbrook is challenging, and running one downtown is no different. One of the challenges is parking.
An issue before the Fallbrook Planning Group next week is important for downtown, the community, and the seven landlords who each own a share of the large parking lot between the library and the Fallbrook Art Center. I believe most of the community believes this is public parking, but it isn't.
I'm offering some context and perspective as a downtown business owner and renter.
A factor that has made doing business downtown more manageable for Village News and other businesses is having a landlord who isn't driven by greed.
Our landlord, for instance, is Mike Stromsoe. He charges us reasonable rent and was very accommodating during Covid, a time when 75% of our advertisers were forced to shut down. The Stromsoe family is one of the seven property owners of the large parking lot.
I recall dealing with Mike Stromsoe's father 26 years ago when we first launched the paper. He had Stromsoe Insurance in our present building and was among our first advertisers, alongside Coldwell Banker, Wards Jewelers, and Steve LeFevre. They supported us with advertising because they understood the value of a newspaper to our community and their businesses. The Stromsoe family has had a history downtown for many decades.
Another tenant of Mike Stromsoe is Compass, which also continues to be a strong supporter of Village News.
When we initially leased our space, Mike told us he had left the building vacant for a year, waiting for the right business for downtown. He wanted a business good for downtown and something he would be proud to have his 16-year-old to work in. Obviously not a sex shop disguised as a legitimate massage studio or any other dubious enterprise like others have leased to around Fallbrook and Bonsall.
Roy Moosa is another downtown landlord and owner of a share in the parking lot. He has invested in all his properties, like the Mission Theater, and refuses to rent or lease to businesses detrimental to downtown. He doesn't profit from the theater but operates it as a cornerstone to support downtown. He keeps his buildings well-painted and maintained, as does Mike Stromsoe. Both are willing to work with businesses that benefit downtown and are personally and financially invested. They prioritize downtown's interests, knowing it ultimately benefits their property values as well.
The parking lot issue before the Planning Group next week is significant for these seven landlords. As tenants of Mike Stromsoe, Village News has the right to use the large lot across the street, as do our customers. However, on days with events downtown or food handouts, finding space can be challenging, as the lot is often mistaken for public parking and there are yoga moms or Main Ave customers parked right in front of our building. So our customers, mostly seniors, can't park in front of our office (but we do love all the yoga moms and customers downtown!).
Currently, these seven property owners have a chance through the County's Revitalization Plan to change their century-old zoning, which limits their use to parking, horse stables, or dog kennels. The County supports this zoning change.
Yet, the Planning Group has rejected it, twice, fearing what the property owners might build and wanting assurance that we won't lose our valuable parking to low-income housing or an unsightly development.
This concern is understandable, but the Planning Group ultimately has the authority to approve or reject future proposals, and these invested property owners have long demonstrated their generosity and commitment to downtown for over 50 years.
Why not give them the opportunity they deserve for providing public parking at their own expense for decades? I believe we can trust that whatever they propose will include parking and likely something that further benefits downtown, given their investment.
If the Planning Group rejects their proposal next week, my business and customers will still have parking, but the lot could be closed to others, and I wouldn't blame the owners. Why should they bear the costs of maintenance, insurance, etc.? Especially if their historical generosity and concrete support for downtown aren't appreciated and acknowledged anyway?
I believe both the Planning Group and the property owners have Fallbrook's best interests at heart, and the most reasonable action now is to trust and collaborate with those who are genuinely invested.