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Will the Santee Drive-In and Swap Meet close to make room for a new business complex?

The city confirms the land is in escrow with a developer to build a 291,000-square-foot business complex.

SANTEE, Calif. — It could be its last scene for a San Diego landmark. Word of the Santee Drive-In Theater and Swap Meet closing to make room for a business development is traveling fast.

On State Route 67, drivers pass the iconic Santee Drive-In Theater, part of San Diego County history since 1958.

“Even when we came out to Target, I checked it just to see what was playing,” said Hope Farris.

She now lives in Tennessee but grew up in San Diego and visits her grandchildren in Santee.

“When I was real young, we used to put our blankets on top of the car and watch,” said Farris. “Dates. We would go there in high school. Of course, that was years ago but it was a lot of fun.”

Her grandchildren still enjoy the family-owned big screen from the back of their family truck.

“I can sit in the truck last time we watched a movie in it, it was fun,” said Andy Carlucci, 10 years old.

But the end may be written for the Santee Drive-In and Swap Meet.

“I would be disappointed because it's really cool and I want to go back really bad,” said Carlucci.

The plot thickened once CBS 8 looked up the City of Santee Active Projects. Its website says North Palisade Partners has a pending entitlement for a 291,000-square-foot industrial building at the Drive-In address on North Woodside Avenue.

Word has traveled that the drive-in and swap meet sold but on the swap meet website, the owner wrote, ‘as the owners, at the same address, doing the same thing our family has done since 1958 - it has not been sold, business as usual. End of "Story.’"

CBS 8 called, emailed, and posted on the drive-in's social media and had not received any response as of the initial posting of this story.

Santee’s Principal Planner, Michael Coyne confirmed that Los Angeles developers, North Palisade Partners is in escrow to purchase the land where the drive-in sits.

In an e-mail to CBS 8, Coyne wrote:

North Palisade Partners, an industrial real estate development firm out of Los Angeles, is in escrow to purchase the Drive-In Theater property. They are seeking to develop a 291,000 sq. ft. industrial building on the 13.49-acre site, which is located in an industrial zone. The development has been branded the “Santee Commerce Center.” The future tenant has not been identified but would be involved in manufacturing, research and development, distribution and related office uses. A historic assessment and environmental analysis of the site are still underway. The project will need to go before the City Council for approval, which would be approximately six months from now. Escrow would not close until the project has been entitled.

Coyne also says the owner must authorize, and they have in this case, the submitted application to develop the property. On the swap meet website, there is no mention of authorizing a new development.

“It’s really sad because our generation is so different than what is now and that is one of the last things left that these  kids can enjoy,” said Farris.

CBS 8 called and emailed all seven team members listed on the North Palisade Partners website for a comment. CBS 8 also reached out to their PR firm and had not heard back at posting.

If it closes, the South Bay Drive-In is the only one of its kind left in the county.

Locals hope they can re-write the end and save the Santee Drive-In Theater and Swap Meet before its sold and redeveloped.

“Those are fond memories that these kids will miss out on, so they need to keep it,” said Farris.

The theater has been a beloved fixture in the community since 1958. If you would like to share any family memories or pictures, please comment on our Facebook or Twitter posts. 

Will the Santee Drive-In shut down to make room for a new business complex? We take a look at what may be changing at this 1958 iconic location. What memories do you have from the Drive-In or the Swap Meet?

Posted by CBS 8 San Diego on Monday, May 8, 2023

WATCH: San Diego's drive-in movie theaters in 2005:


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