South Pasadena’s Big Lots, which has been a mainstay in the city for more than 20 years, is packing its bags and moving to neighboring Alhambra into the building that formerly housed Toys “R” Us. Photo by Steve Whitmore

On the heels of Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) shuttering its doors and leaving South Pasadena, the local Big Lots is now closing its doors and moving to a neighboring city.

The Big Lots, 1401 Huntington Drive, is anticipating closing its doors for good in South Pasadena and moving into the old Toys “R” Us building in next door Alhambra.

Store officials estimated the So Pas store, on the corner of Huntington Drive and Fremont Avenue, will close near the end of May or the beginning of June.

It will be the second loss of a large retail tax base in the last 12 months with OSH Hardware on Fair Oaks Avenue closing its doors last year.

It’s unknown what this will mean for the city in terms of tax revenue but one city official said it was an obvious loss. However, John Pope, the city’s public information officer, also said it may open up new opportunities for the city with economic development.

“We will have to see,” He said.

The Big Lots store had been at that same location in South Pasadena for more than 20 years, according to the store manager, Braun Hawkins. Hawkins declined to comment further and referred all other questions to corporate communications.

Big Lots officials did not return phone calls or emails regarding the closure.

The departure is occurring when the city is already scrambling to make up a more than $1 million budget gap in next year’s budget.

The city has had an aggressively outreach campaign to engage the community in the looming budget gap problem. The city has held two community meetings along with meetings with targeted groups such as Rotary, Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Activism, the Chamber of Commerce’s ShopTalk, to name just a few. 

The City Council is in the beginning stages of examining the fiscal plan before it finalizes the 2019-2020 balanced budget, which has to be adopted no later than June 30.

Some of the remedies that have floated include raising revenue from parking meters on Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street, which could raise $245,500 next year; increasing the sales tax by 75 cents; and implementing a public safety parcel tax. The combined sales tax is now 9.5 percent. The latter two tax increases would not be effective until fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021. The city fiscal year is from is from July 1 to June 30.

City officials also have recommended increasing revenues by encouraging investment in business districts that generate property and sales taxes, such as Big Lots.  Also, the city is looking at increasing city fees for services, allowing new land uses and additional taxes such as a cannabis tax or even a hotel tax. And officials are looking to redevelop city properties that will generate more money over the long term.

City officials are also looking at services that could be cut, including the elimination of some part-time employees, eliminating crime prevention programs, cutting library part-time hours, eliminating the police cadet program, eliminating special events, such as Concerts in the Park, and a reduction in teens and senior programs.

The loss of another large retail is not good news to the city, business leaders say. Officials were hopeful that the well-known eatery, Twohey’s, would add a positive jolt to the local economy when it announced it was moving into South Pasadena but that moved has been delayed. A sign in front of the new site on Fair Oaks Avenue says the restaurant is going to open in late spring.

Also, as of late last week, Twohey’s posted on social media the announcement that it would be closing its current Alhambra store April 14.

The So Pas City Council is expecting to deal specifically with cuts and revenue hikes needed to make up the difference beginning at its next meeting April 17.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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