Balancing a property owners’ right to make decisions about which tenants to rent to against the community’s needs is what is at stake in the current controversy over the lease cancellation that is forcing Cellar Door Books to pull up stakes precipitously. Whose priorities should take precedence? And how should these types of decisions be made? Not lightly, I should think.
Without delving into speculation, here are the facts and a timeline:
Tuesday January 17: Linda Sherman-Nurick, owner of Cellar Door Books, received an email notifying her of the cancellation of the lease and giving her six weeks to vacate the premises. No explanation, no warning.
Wednesday, January 18: The public began to get wind of this and a public campaign to raise awareness grew to a fervor.
Thursday, January 19: David Allen of the Southern California News Group reached out to Sherman-Nurick and wrote a piece for his Sunday column. Allen contacted the Centre seeking answers—and in the process learned they intended to give the bookstore an extra month to move.
Friday, January 20: The column published online, and at the same time a press release from the Centre’s management was made public. In this press release, the decision to terminate Cellar Door’s lease is linked to the deaths of two of the Centre’s owners, most recently in spring of 2022. New management came on board as of January 1, 2023, decisions were made, and here we are.
The only reason stated in the press release for the termination of Cellar Door’s lease, which they admit in writing was in good standing, is this:
“Their premises will be repurposed for another use as part of a larger strategic initiative.”
The press release concludes: “Unfortunately, there is no easy way to make certain changes.”
To this we say: There are better ways. Having a face-to-face conversation with the tenant, explaining the situation, asking for input. Opening a dialogue. All of those would have gone a long way toward engendering good will and allowing for a reasonable move out date. Instead, they acted unilaterally.
For all the facts, we are still left with questions: Why be so secretive about this “initiative”? Do they not want to say it out loud? Or do they not really know, at least not yet?