Saying parking was insufficient, the Torrance City Council rejected a plan to build a 104,000-square-foot Home Club store at 190th Street and Hawthorne Boulevard.
After listening for nearly an hour to about a dozen residents who said they opposed the project because it might worsen traffic, the City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to reject the $17-million project at 4343 W. 190th St.
The project would have provided 390 parking spaces, at least 64 short of the required number, depending on whether the store was considered a retail outlet or a warehouse.
Mayor Katy Geissert said she was most concerned about parking, but sympathized with the traffic concerns of residents.
“The Home Club proposal will not make or break the neighborhood,” she said, referring to the area’s traffic problems. “But it’s just another straw to break the camel’s back.”
Councilman Dan Walker said he voted for the project because it was appropriate for the area and would not worsen traffic.
To ease traffic concerns, the developer had agreed to restripe 190th Street from Prairie Boulevard just past Hawthorne Boulevard to add an extra lane in each direction. The developer was also required to pay for new left-turn signals at 190th and Prairie.
Day Laborers Feared
Still, some of the residents who spoke during the meeting said the project would aggravate traffic that already is “a mess” and “a zoo.”
At least two residents who spoke said they feared the project might encourage day laborers to gather in nearby Columbia Regional Park in the hope of being hired by contractors shopping at the store.
“Let’s not mar (the park) by having day laborers lingering around,” said resident Eric Wakuzawa.
Beverly Bunker, who lives on 184th Place, said she opposed the project partly because of “day laborer exposure to the children” at the park.
After the meeting, Bunker said her comments about day laborers--who often are Latinos--were not intended to be racist. She said she feared that day laborers might bring down the value of her property.
The council has delayed its decision on the project twice, saying it wanted to give the developer time to redesign parking plans. The original plan, submitted in early February, provided all the required parking spaces, including 263 spaces on the roof of the building. The council, however, told the developer that rooftop parking would set an undesirable precedent for other retail stores.
The developer, Gordon Sadkin of Torrance, eliminated the rooftop parking and reduced the size of the building by about 6,000 square feet to provide 24 more ground spaces. He asked for a variance on the additional spaces rather than further reducing the building’s size.
Sadkin, who also developed the adjacent Wickes Furniture Showroom, said in an interview after the meeting that he was disappointed with the council’s decision. “I will never do another project in Torrance again,” he said.
Sadkin’s attorney, William Beverly, suggested after the meeting that the project was “a sacrificial lamb” that might have been rejected to appease a vocal group of residents.
“I’m mystified,” he said. “We did everything that the council asked us to do.”