Sparks are flying in a dispute between Southern California Edison and Performance Nursery, a tenant on the electric utility company’s Moorpark property.
In late July, SoCal Edison sent a letter to Performance Nursery, which has leased 42 acres at Tierra Rejada Road and Arroyo Simi for almost 30 years, giving it until Oct. 15 to vacate the property. Contacted by the Business Times, a SoCal Edison spokesperson would not give a reason for the eviction. Performance Nursery maintains that it doesn’t know why the utility wants to give it the boot.
“Edison is not negotiating whatsoever,” said Keith Jajko, a business consultant and representative for Performance Nursery. “We’ve been out talking to the neighbors, talking about the issue at hand and explaining the situation.”
Rudy Gonzales, regional manager for SCE, said there is an extension offer on the table giving Performance more time to vacate the property and potentially salvage more of its inventory. But Gonzales said he hasn’t heard from Performance owner Tom Lucas since the offer was made. Gonzales said he couldn’t disclose how long the extension is or when the offer was made.
Under the license agreement SCE with Performance, the utility legally only has to give 30 days of notice for its tenant to vacate. SCE said it has considered Performance’s nursery inventory of 460,000 plants and allowed it up to 75 days.
Lucas has said his nursery acts as “buffer” between the mass of SCE power lines that run over the top of the property and the adjacent neighborhood. Jajko said many residential neighbors have expressed concern about what would happen to the property if Performance is forced to vacate.
When asked if SCE has had any contact with residents, Gonzales said, “No, not really.”
In the past, the nursery received letters for alleged agreement violations from SCE for some trees being too tall or for some water tanks being out of place, Jajko said, but this is the first time it hasn’t been able to resolve conflicts with SCE.
“We can’t get a hold of anyone to talk about it,” Jajko said. “The current lease still has two more years on it.”
Performance has started a petition to keep the nursery put on the website Change.org and so far has received 400 signatures.
Gonzales, the SCE spokesperson, declined to discuss the company’s reasons for asking Performance to vacate or its plans for the property.
“We’re not in position to discuss the termination of the license,” Gonzales said. “Our objective is continue to provide reliable electric service and security, and maintenance of our property for consumers as well as for the safety of the general public. We’ve been asked what our plans are once the property is vacated. … The only thing I can say right now is that we would secure it and continue to maintain it.”
Performance said it plans to fight the order, although it has less than a month to move. Jajko said the order is a death warrant for the nursery’s 460,000 plants.
The nursery could potentially move some plants to the businesses’ four other locations, but the cost to do so doesn’t really make sense, Jajko said.
The Moorpark location has 32 employees, and most would be out of their jobs if the facility shut down, he said.
“We’ve already been mulching some of the taller trees,” Jajko said. “But moving all the plants, there just isn’t enough time, even if it were possible to secure another property. The biggest issue here is the neighbors deserve to know what the future plans are for the property regardless of what [SCE] does with us in the end. The neighbors deserve that.”