CALEXICO — Vendors and shoppers at Calexico’s oldest outdoor swap meet, Las Palmas, can expect to see major changes at the site by summer, when planned renovations become visible, a company spokesman said recently.
Further, recent city fire
code violations have either been cleared or have repairs scheduled during renovations,
said Chris Martinez, an employee and son of swap meet owner, Brenda Martinez.
“We knew we had these
things to fix. If we’re open for business, we’re compliant,” Chris Martinez
The spotlight’s glare
moved to swap meets after a major fire at Santo Tomas swap meet in December
2018 and the city finding numerous alleged code violations in post-fire inspections
there. Las Palmas was also inspected and alleged code violations found, city
Electrical upgrades to
the 40-acre property at 1305 Ollie Ave. began a couple of years ago, Martinez
explained in a Feb. 25 interview. However, some matters were delayed after
family patriarch and swap meet founder, Raul Estrada, died in 2018. Now, the focus
is on upgrades to the 10-acre footprint of the swap meet, he added.
Estrada, who purchased
the land in the mid-1960s to run his own farm, founded Las Palmas in 1967 when
some vendors set up operations on a little section of the property, the Los
Angeles Times reported in March 1990.
There are plans to build
a new concert stage that will open this year, Martinez added. However, soccer fields
or anything that might occur outside the immediate 10 acres of the swap meet is
part of a longer-term plan, he said.
Potential costs previously
affixed to the project by a city official were incorrect and those numbers are being
finalized, Martinez said.
Over the next several
months Las Palmas will get new restrooms, concession stands and a sit-down area
to eat and drink, Martinez explained.
“We will release more
information as it happens,” he added.
City officials reported
large areas of the swap meet will be surfaced, and more fire-proofing will
occur on par with a 2019 city ordinance setting swap-meet operating standards.
As for the fire code
violations, as of summer 2019 city officials said Las Palmas had 18 violations
that needed to be addressed from a February 2019 inspection. Those included
issues with fire extinguishers, fire-proof coverings, emergency plans and
In contrast, Santo Tomas
Swap Meet, which closed last summer, had about 50 fire and building code
Martinez and city Fire
Inspector Fernando Villa confirmed Las Palmas officials met with Fire Chief Diego Favila about two months ago discuss
violations. Among the most urgent corrections, Las Palmas officials showed Favila
proof there are adequate fire extinguishers properly displayed, Martinez and
Martinez said he
explained to fire officials that they came on a day to inspect before the fire
extinguishers were put out for the week and that other violations alleged
happened on a day when an excess of merchandise was being delivered and stacked
in vendor stalls.
The most critical
violations were addressed and those remaining have agreed-upon timelines, Villa
said Feb. 24.
Las Palmas has more than
300 working, up-to-date fire extinguishers, but they are not kept out all the
time to prevent damage or theft, Martinez said.
“Those fire extinguishers
are expensive,” and that was explained to Favila, he added.
Martinez and city staff,
including members of the city council, have often said there is a great
relationship between the city and Las Palmas, which complies with the city’s
requests and works well with city staff.
Martinez praised the city
for its efforts, including upcoming plans to update Ollie Ave., where Martinez
said the city is putting in more bus stops and better signage for the swap
“We appreciate that,”
Las Palmas is open six
days a week, with its busiest day still considered Wednesdays. It is closed