W(T)F? Whole Foods welcomes gangbanger parking

Update July 11 - The Blockbuster Video parking lot is now a pay-to-park lot, operated by the same crew working the Whole Foods lot for several years. W(T)F has decided it's okay to disrupt the quality of life for residents on the street next to Blockbuster just so they can make a few more bucks before moving to Lakewood at the end of the year.

The W(T)F people are probably getting ready to play hardball on this issue. BD spoke to a W(T)F regional manager representative earlier this week and was questioned regarding his aggressiveness about this issue [you'd be aggressive if you had 50 gangbangers parking across the street from your house having a party every weekend] and why he thought one towing company was better than another. The rep also said this issue had been escalated to the legal department; to date, BD has not seen any correspondence. The W(T)F national office crawled all over BD's website on Thursday afternoon, viewing 14 different pages between 4:22 and 5:14 pm.

Nearly three months ago, BD reported how a towing service had been operating on the Lower Greenville Blockbuster parking lot for years without a contract signed by any of the principals. And just as fast, they were kicked off the parking lot.

And for nearly three months, the parking lot has been open for bar patrons use every weekend as word spread of the lack of towing, while the Whole Foods side continued to be managed by a pay to park contractor. Whole Foods manages the entire property, including collecting rent from Blockbuster.

Despite pleas from neighborhood residents (especially BD, since this is right in front of the Dog Pound), the Whole Foods management team was not actively working to bring a towing service back to the parking lot, no matter the noise, trash and somewhat unsavory characters using it.

And on Monday, they made it official - Whole Foods has formally decided to not hire a new towing service to protect the parking lot. Instead, they are looking at expanding the pay to park service (which BD has been told is unlikely since the operator does not want to work such a large area with his small crew) or - do you believe this? - bringing in a valet parking service to manage the lot.

The manager of Whole Foods would not take BD's calls and would not meet with him in the store on Monday. The Blockbuster manager is reported as very frustrated that nothing is being done, but probably would not mind a towing service if her employees did not have to deal with towing rage on the weekends. Calls to Whole Foods regional office asking for a comment and a change in policy have not been returned by 6pm.

The property's owners are also not returning calls. Sources tell BD they washed their hands of the issue after the illegal towing service was kicked out (they thought Blockbuster had signed the contract, Blockbuster thought Whole Foods had signed the contract, and Whole Foods thought the property owner had signed the contract) and are doing everything they can to avoid dealing with this hot potato.

With all the Resident Parking Only streets in the area (and three more in the works now), bar parking (or a lack thereof) is a hot-button issue. The Blockbuster lot is not like the unsurfaced parking lots on Bell or Alta Streets, with not a soul living nearby. This parking lot is large, well lit until about midnight, faces several residential properties on Belmont, and is a major landmark - and tempting treat - for gangbangers trying to avoid paying $20 and up valet fees.

Whole Foods is set to move to the old Minyard's store on Abrams Road by the end of this year. If this kind of poor community relations continues unabated, BD would gladly be the first one to hold the door as they left the neighborhood which they claim to love so much.

By Avi S. Adelman under Public safety , Lower Greenville