Chances Slim on Alternate Plan for Torrance Senior Housing

The City Council directed its staff to review a proposal by an Old Downtown community group that asks the city to purchase 26 three-bedroom houses as an alternative to a planned four-story housing project for the elderly. But the council made it clear that it is not likely to reverse its decision to allow construction of the complex in Old Downtown.

"I fully intend to abide by the decision this council unanimously made. I don't intend to change my mind," said Councilman Dan Walker at last week's council meeting. In December, the council approved the 78-unit structure on city-owned property at El Prado and Cravens avenues over the objections of some neighboring residents, who argued that the building was too large for the area. Area homeowners had preferred a two-story building; the Planning Department had recommended a three-story, 56-unit building.

John Geyer, a spokesman for the Save Torrance Committee, a loosely organized group of Old Downtown homeowners and merchants formed in part to fight the housing project, also argued that the housing project would take away badly needed parking spaces at time when area businesses are showing signs of revitalization.

Too Much to Lose

Geyer said 50 spaces, 10% of the existing spaces, would be lost to the project, which is being built on a lot that was used for public parking.

"This is just too much for Old Downtown to lose," Geyer said.

The council offered to look into the parking problem, but questioned the group's motive in offering an alternative to the housing complex.

"Tonight you tell us it's parking; two weeks ago it was four stories," said Mayor Jim Armstrong. "I just don't think (the house-purchase proposal) is going to fly."

Geyer's proposal asks the city to spend $3.9 million to buy 26 houses at $150,000 each. Three seniors would be placed in each house, each paying about $320 a month in rent.

Thomas Safran & Associates, the housing project developer, will invest about $2.6 to build the structure. Monthly rents are expected to be about $420 without city assistance.

The city has set aside $1.5 million in redevelopment tax revenues to help reduce rents. The city has not decided whether the money will be used as a direct rent subsidy or to help defray the cost of construction.

Geyer wants the city to use that money to help buy the three-bedroom houses.

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