Pine Tree Circle, A Place for Community

Nathan Daneshgar introduces himself to the Topanga community and shares his vision for Pine Tree Circle. “Collaborative vision is so healthy,” he said. “Topangans will help guide us more than anything else.” Photo by Bonnie Morgan

A little over a year ago, Leslie and Steve Carlson sold Pine Tree Circle. Rumors flew, residents worried that Topanga’s neighborhood integrity would be compromised, if not lost, and the tenants who decided to remain, are still adjusting to the sticker shock of an immediate 45 percent rent increase. The new owner, Nate Daneshgar, does have a vision for the property and it includes the Topanga community. The 20th Annual Snow Night is scheduled for December 22, 2019.

Pine Tree Circle’s new owner, Nate Daneshgar met with the Messenger Mountain News to describe his vision for the property and shared a more in-depth rundown of the expenses they incurred with the purchase prior to any other operating expenses.

“I like to explain why first, then get to what,” he said. “The rent [increases] are in response to our increased operating expenses incurred with the change in ownership. As one example, our property tax bill is nearly 300 percent of what it was for the previous owners. I spent a lot of time talking to the tenants, trying to get on the same page. It’s not some arbitrary event that we raised the rent. It’s mostly about debt and the intricacies of how that works. I want to extend preferred rates to our existing tenants and work with them on how to do that. Any capital improvements we make are at our sole expense. It’s written into the leases.

“The transition was a frenetic time but I’m happy to report that we have signed lease renewals with each of our existing businesses,” Daneshgar said. “We are coming up with plans to help take the edge off the transition and make their businesses more profitable. Ideally, I would like to handpick all of our tenants, like the Gallery and Gidget’s Flower Power…I want tenants like them. Topanga Historical Society and City Hearts are staying. Maintaining their presence in the center of town is important.”

“First and foremost, we want PTC to remain a place for the community. We never want to get in the way of that,” Daneshgar said.

To that end, this year’s 20th Annual Snow Night, will take place on December 15, and the gathering of the Topanga Days Parade will continue.

“Those traditions are very important to us. I planned Snow Night with the Carlsons and they guided me. It was good to have that first rundown from them,” said Daneshgar, who also hopes to establish some new traditions.

“Bringing in the commuter to become a patron of the center is one of the objectives for the center,” he said. “It is a destination. At its core, this is a place for the community and we hope to bring more life to it, make it more accessible, more sustainable.”

He is enthusiastic about bringing sustainability to the property, beginning with an upgrade of the bathrooms and finding ways to conserve water. He was also receptive to implementing and encouraging composting, a discussion that will continue with input from the community.

Daneshgar said that he wants to maintain and strengthen the presence of local organizations at Pine Tree Circle, such as the Topanga Women’s Circle and Topanga Historical Society, as well as engage in local projects off-site, such as the recently launched Topanga Community Compost Hub. “We can make this more of a community project and do good in the process,” he said. “We also have an opportunity to showcase artistry, music and the incredible individualism that exists in the canyon. We intend to host events that do just that.”

As a side note, the Topanga Historical Society was one of Pine Tree Circle’s first tenants.

In October 2018, the Messenger Mountain News reported, “Before construction [of Pine Tree Circle] was finished and the stairways put in, the Carlsons invited the Society’s president, Gerry Haigh, to select whichever unit he liked for its archive center. Haigh and Ami Kirby, the Society’s archivist at that time, climbed a ladder to the second floor and chose Unit 206 because they felt it afforded the best mountain view.”

On Sunday, October 28, 2018, shortly after the sale, the shopping center was the site of the Society’s annual picnic where the community first met Nathan and his father, Joseph Daneshgar. “It was such a warm welcome,” Daneshgar recalled. “That meant a lot to me to be embraced by the community.”

What is not imminent are plans for a restaurant. County regulations and constraints of canyon closures require more planning. The more imminent low-hanging fruit is upgrading signage, landscaping, and creating more outdoor seating so it evolves into an inviting gathering place. He was reluctant to say more about future projects because he didn’t want to “raise expectations.” He is moving step by step, while researching and planning the more complex improvements. “We’re in this very interesting chrysalis now by keeping our businesses here.”

Daneshgar insists he is following in the footsteps of the Carlsons, who bought the two-acre property in 1987 and built the 25,000-square-foot building. He said he is not into “super branding” the property with highly commercial or chain businesses. “We’re not here in a corporate capacity,” he said. “We want to create a space that’s safe and keep it a family environment.

“We are partners with our tenants as well as with the Topanga community and have enjoyed the evolution of the project as [it becomes] more and more collaborative. We hope and believe that the improvements to the property will make Pine Tree Circle even more of a gathering place in a synergistic balance of art, convenience, and leisure.”

Daneshgar welcomes suggestions from residents with ideas, programs, etc., that will contribute to the benefit of the community as a whole. “Collaborative vision is so healthy,” he said. “The wisdom that can be offered by Topangans will help guide us more than anything else.”

Being the owner of Pine Tree Circle was brought home to Daneshgar on a recent visit. He recounted an incident as he was pulling out of the center. “A few kids were skateboarding and I asked them to stop. They asked me, ‘Oh, is everything going to change?’ I told them, ‘It’s for your own safety.’”He told the Messenger Mountain News he wasn’t averse to accommodating skateboarders in a safe place, but it isn’t at the top of what must be a long To-Do list.

Nathan Daneshgar knows he is young, 24. “My work is important to me,” he said, “ but I’ve played guitar for 14 years. Artists are like the fabric of this place and music is something we now have a cool platform to showcase at PTC.

Growing up with my father, who has been in this business for about 40 years, he always spoke to me about integrity.” Quoting scripture, he said, “‘What should it profit someone to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul?’ Who wants to do business with someone who doesn’t mean well? I want to create trust with the community…and my parents.”

“Topanga is such a strong example of interdependency. The community that’s here is incredibly rare. Whatever brings people together is a good thing,” he said.

WHAT BUSINESSES, EVENTS DO YOU WANT TO SEE AT PINE TREE CIRCLE?

We’ve collected a few suggestions. Feel free to add to the list and send to: editor@messengermountainnews.com; or pinetree.topanga@gmail.com. 

Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Parlor

Manicurist

Pastry Shop

Saddlery/Pet supplies

Wellness space & events

Contract when possible with local craftsmen and artisans for improvements and upgrades

Environmentally friendly and sustainable businesses and upgrades

 

Flavia Potenza
Flavia Potenza

Flavia Potenza is executive editor of the Messenger Mountain News. She is also a founding member of the 40-year old Topanga Messenger that closed its doors in 2016. She can be reached at editor@messengermountainnews.com

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