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A (parking) lot of trouble: Caston’s owners cited for parking-lot sales, which city sees as blight

Posted: December 30, 2009 9:46 p.m.
Updated: December 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Rick Caston of Caston's TV & Appliances with one of his trucks bearing advertising in the parking lot of Caston's on Lyons Avenue in Newhall.

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The owners of a landmark Newhall appliance shop say they'll have to close their doors if the city doesn't let them sell their refrigerators and washers in their parking lot.

The city, however, says that Caston's TV & Appliances has been hawking their wares in front of their store so often, it's become an eyesore.

About a week ago, the city fined the landmark store $300 for three violations, said owner Jerry Caston.

The citations were for store signs that were too big under the city's sign-restriction ordinance, as well as too many parking-lot sales, Caston said.

While Caston said the business has been losing money fast since it stopped parking-lot sales, city officials said the shop has been doing it too much and has drawn at least two complaints.

"If you had every store selling things in their parking lot or sidewalks, streets would have a blighted appearance," said Santa Clarita Director of Community Development Paul Brotzman.

The shop opened in 1967, making it one of the oldest stores in the city, Caston said.

The city sent the owners a letter saying they had exceeded the allowable number of days for parking-lot sales,
The city allows people with a permit to sell in their parking lot for 16 weekends out of the year - at the most, he said.

The store had been selling appliances in the parking lot seven days a week, Brotzman said.

"They ignored the provisions of the temporary use permit regulating outdoor sales," Brotzman said. "So they ended up getting cited for that."

Sign and parking-lot ordinances are intended to prevent people from doing daily business outside their stores, Brotzman said.

Similar ordinances that protect the appearance of public areas are typical in most cities, Brotzman said.

Stores can apply for special permits to host tent sales or other sales events in their parking lots, he said.

Rick Caston, Jerry's son and fellow owner of the business, said the parking lot business is the only thing that has helped keep Caston's afloat the past year.

Business at the store has dropped about 60 percent in December since he and his dad had to stop selling in the parking lot, he said.

To break even, the store has to take in about $150,000 a month, Caston said. In December it's made less than $100,000, he said.

Rick Caston said he wants the city to "look the other way" so he can continue to sell appliances in the parking lot every weekend until business picks up.

"I have four kids, with one on the way," Caston said. "This place needs to be here; I guess I'm just frustrated."

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