Drag races, knife fights, drug abuse and hook-up spots are just some of things that we have all seen take place in empty parking lots in movies and television shows. Ever ponder what would happen if Laguna Niguel were to have a big, abandoned parking lot of its own?
Well, Laguna Niguel Patch did and we decided to check out the former parking lot of the Expo Design Center located off of Greenfield and Rancho Niguel Road in the Center at Rancho Niguel. The building sits high up on a hill and tucked behind the It has been empty for two years.
From Nov. 5 to Nov. 15, I staked out the Expo parking lot at various times throughout the day to see what I could find.
“There is activity in the parking lot, but it is minimal,” according to Ann Forella, vice president of asset management for Buie Stoddard Properties, the company that manages the building. “A private security service and property management, as well as the Police Department, patrols the parking lot frequently.”
Surprisingly, the parking lot turned out to be not so vacant after all.
At 1:34 p.m. on Nov. 5, a police car was parked in the Expo lot and its passenger appeared to be doing paperwork. Later that evening when I returned to the parking lot at 8 p.m., there was a blue Lexus parked in the lot. Inside the car was an older couple that seemed to be looking for some alone time.
On Nov. 7 at 3:42 p.m., three local skateboarders were taking advantage of the smooth pavement and open space under the overhang of the building. These middle school-aged skateboarders informed me that this was a "good spot to practice tricks and not be bothered by anyone."
At 11:10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, three passengers were sitting in a white unmarked car along the outer right ridge of the parking lot. I saw a lighter flicking on and off in the car. As I drove closer, the car's engine started and the car sped away.
On Monday, Nov. 14 at 12:23 p.m., two young people were standing in front of the building smoking a cigarette.
On numerous occasions, Laguna Niguel Patch photographer Barton Mac Leod said he saw a car per minute arriving to just "hang out in the empty parking lot."
He also noticed broken beer bottles in the loading dock and various forms of garbage left by those visiting the area.
In terms of what the city has to say, “We receive periodic inquiries about potential reuse of the building/site, but no formal applications to date,” said City Manager Tim Casey.
Until then, the parking lot will just be paved paradise. If you have seen anything taking place in the parking lot, let us know in the comments below.
--Barton Mac Leod contributed to this report.