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By Mike Allen

September 1, 2023 (Santee) -- The owner of the Santee Drive-In Theater said the outdoor movie complex that opened in 1958 will shut down in January. In a press statement, Susan Boyd, a member of the Forte Family, said the business “is no longer economically viable.”

“We are facing loss of customers, higher costs, equipment obsolescence, competition from streaming services, and the inability to show some of the newly released films.  Like movie theaters across the country, we cant afford to stay open,” she said.

Instead of letting the property sit vacant, the family selected North Palisade Partners of Los Angeles as buyers in a sale that’s expected to occur in 2024, according to the recent press statement.

This news confirms what East County Magazine reported in early May, based on several reliable sources.

At the time the story was posted, Boyd sent out a statement denying the sale. She also said called out this reporter and his sources, stating they “have the facts wrong” and that the owners were never contacted.

That wasn’t true, and apparently, it was Boyd who was wrong, or at least playing with words. She said in her earlier press release, “It is a statement of fact that the Santee Drive In has not been sold.”

The ECM story stated that the drive-in property was in escrow, meaning it was in the process of being sold.

In fact, the family has been working on this deal for months, and at the time the story broke, the property at 13.49 acres at 10990 N. Woodside Ave. was in escrow to North Palisades Partners. The city of Santee’s chief planner, Michael Coyne, confirmed this information, and cited a reference to the project on a page on the city’s website called Active Projects that shows key development projects that are either approved, or actually under construction.

He also said the owners would prefer not to talk about the project.

Coyne also said the property must undergo extensive environmental and other studies before the City Council would review the project and vote on the new development, an industrial warehouse of about 300,000 square feet.

The warehouse would be used by a large retailer--Amazon, Walmart, or some similar large corporation--according to several sources. North Palisades Partners didn’t return a request for more information on their plans including the price agreed upon, what tenants they are negotiating with, or how many jobs the new project might produce.

In its joint statement with Boyd, North Palisades said it is working with Santee to process plans for a ‘state of the art building that will serve to attract new businesses to East County. Joe Mishurda, NPP’s founder, said in the statement, “We currently own and operate two properties in the San Diego region and are big believers in Santee and East County.”

The need for industrial warehouse space is high in San Diego, according to several real estate sources, and the new complex at the site of the theater won’t have any problems finding tenants.

A similar industrial warehouse complex is currently being constructed at a site at the corner of Cuyamaca Street and Weld Avenue. The lead tenant for the property is GKN Aerospace, a supplier of engine components, which already has some 1,000 employees in El Cajon. The company said it plans to transition about 330 workers to the new site, and add another 200 by the end of 2025.

When the Santee Drive-In closes, it will leave only one drive-in theater in the county at the South Bay Drive In Theater and Swap Meet.



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