Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on Apple’s secretive practices in opening retail stores. The first part, about the Apple store that opened Friday in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, was published Thursday.
Apple is opening a new retail store next year in Santa Monica, California, sources say
Apple and its contractors have declined to say whether the store is coming
Sources: Apple rushed the store through the city approval process anonymously
Real estate executive: "Something is going on there that doesn't sound right"
The clerks at Apple’s store on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade are well-trained.
When asked recently by a reporter about a new Apple Store rumored to be opening down the street, one worker said he didn’t know about it, and even if he did, he couldn’t say. He did point out that someone is building a store with a glass roof that looks a lot like some other Apple stores. Another employee smiled, looked away and said he didn’t know anything.
But according to a person familiar with the plans who is bound by a nondisclosure agreement, Apple has already begun work on such a store in Santa Monica. Like the Peter Bohlin-designed Apple Store on New York’s Upper West Side, it will have a tall, striking glass storefront, the person said. And like an upcoming store in a suburban Seattle mall, the new store will open next year a short walk away from a smaller one, which will close.
For this development in the beach town near Los Angeles, Apple has gone to extremes to ensure secrecy. The behavior has perplexed and infuriated city officials who are unclear why Apple would feel the need to hide a new store when it already has one a couple of blocks away.
The Santa Monica store episode also illustrates Apple’s unusually covert way of doing business. Interviews with almost two dozen people familiar with Apple Store negotiations say the Cupertino, California, company sometimes employs uncommon legal tactics, refuses to name itself in public documents and hearings, and has sworn city government officials to secrecy.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
‘Nobody would talk’
Howard Robinson, the real estate developer who has represented Apple at Santa Monica city meetings, has carefully avoided mentioning Apple by name. When reached by phone late one day in September, he declined to comment on the project, citing a confidentiality agreement with the company.
Apple, which recently began construction on the site, has managed to skate through most of the city’s stringent public reviews.
In the first, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission employed an unusual measure at an August 17 meeting. The only development proposal on the agenda that night involved tearing down the former site of a three-story Borders bookstore in the city’s prized outdoor shopping district and constructing a 75-foot edifice that would require a special permit.
Instead of discussing and then voting on the project, as is usually the case, officials placed it on the consent calendar, which allows the commission members to vote on it immediately without input from residents in the audience. From proposal to unanimous approval, the entire process took 30 seconds, an archived video from the meeting shows.
“Nobody would talk about the fact that it was Apple,” said Peggy Clifford, who has covered the public meetings for her Santa Monica Dispatch blog. “They really didn’t want to have to say anything about it.”
Even Tony Kim, the city planner who was assigned to and recommended the approval of the project, declined to name the incoming tenant.
“I’ve been asked not to divulge that information,” Kim said in an interview. “I really can’t say. I want to respect the applicant’s wishes.”