By Nick Diamantides
Boulevard Buick/GMC will soon be moving from its present location in the Signal Hill Auto Center, but city officials are not worried. The dealership is actually planning to move to the slightly larger, now-vacant Mike Salta Chrysler/Jeep dealership site, which is also in the Signal Hill Auto Center. In three separate unanimous votes during its April 20 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council approved a negative declaration (in lieu of an environmental-impact report, a zoning ordinance amendment, and a conditional-use permit pertaining to the move.)
Before the vote, Scott Charney, the city’s planning manager, gave a brief history of the two dealerships. “In 1990, the city approved side-by-side auto sales and service facilities at 2800 and 2850 Cherry Avenue,” he said. “Boulevard Buick/GMC currently operates its sales and service facility at 2850 Cherry Avenue and its collision center in Long Beach at 3369 Cherry Avenue.” Charney added that the Salta dealership at 2800 Cherry Avenue went out of business last year and Boulevard Buick is now using a portion of that site to display some of its vehicles.
“Boulevard’s Collision Center provides body repair and painting services for all vehicle makes and models,” Charney said. “Their lease at the Long Beach facility is expiring shortly.” He explained that Boulevard Buick was not only requesting to move its car sales and service operations to the vacant Salta site, but also seeking a city permit to move its collision center there.
Brad Willingham, one of the three partners who operate Boulevard Buick, told the council that the dealership’s collision center was originally at the Signal Hill Auto Center but had moved to Long Beach several years ago. He added that the new collision center would be in a stand-alone building not clearly identified with the Boulevard dealership, which, according to Willingham, would encourage other dealerships and owners of other makes of cars to bring their vehicles there for collision repair.
“We are excited to be able to expand our operations in Signal Hill,” Willingham said.
“I too am excited about seeing this new product, especially during this time of economic recession,” said Mayor Ed Wilson, explaining that the body shop parts sales would slightly increase the city’s sales tax revenues.
Wilson then asked Willingham if his company had looked into incorporating energy-saving technologies in the new collision center. Willingham noted that the heaters and motors in the painting booths that will be installed there will use about half as much electricity as the booths now in operation at the Long Beach site. He added that the dealership’s new signs will use energy-saving LED lights and the company is considering the possible use of solar panels in the future.
Just before the council vote, Councilman Larry Forester told Willingham and his partners, “The auto center has been really important to us, and we really appreciate what you are doing.”
A date has not yet been determined for the renovation of the existing buildings on the Salta site, the construction of the new collision center and Boulevard Buick’s move to the new location.
In other actions, the council adopted an ordinance slightly amending the city’s elections and campaign contributions code, approved two-year terms for the members of the sustainable city commission, and approved the 2010 sustainable city action plan.
The next meeting of the city council is scheduled for 7pm, May 4 in the Council Chamber of Signal Hill City Hall.