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Torrance Pledges to Go Ahead on Arts Center

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Torrance city officials say that construction of the cultural arts center will proceed as planned, after a judge denied a lawsuit attempting to block the $12.2-million project.

The ruling “allows us to maintain our construction schedule. We were fearful we’d be set back,” said Gene G. Barnett, city parks and recreation director.

But the man who brought the unsuccessful lawsuit, developer Jerry Conrow, says he may appeal last Friday’s decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe.

Conrow said he remains convinced the city did not adequately study how the new center--now being built at the Torrance Civic Center on Torrance Boulevard--will strain parking in the area.

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“The city has been derelict as far as parking,” Conrow said. “The whole thrust of what I was trying to do was to look down the road five years, eight years, and say, ‘This is going to be a mess.’ ”

Conrow’s lawsuit charged that the city should have conducted an environmental impact report for the project. The lawsuit was filed March 26, a few weeks after construction began on the 63,700-square-foot arts complex.

The city countered that the complex had been discussed at public meetings over two years, and that Conrow could have complained before construction started.

Judge Yaffe agreed that Conrow could have acted earlier, according to Conrow and a lawyer for the city.

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“In effect, what he said was, ‘You had your chance to complain but didn’t,’ ” said Ralph H. Nutter, a Los Angeles lawyer representing Torrance.

The city is in the process of increasing parking around the Civic Center, city officials said.

The area, which has slightly more than 1,100 parking spaces, will have 1,400 when the arts center is completed, said Philip Tilden, capital projects administrator for the city. The city has also made arrangements with Epson America to use some of the company’s nearby parking spaces at night and on weekends for arts center events.

The center is slated for completion in late 1991. It will consist of four buildings, including a 497-seat theater, meeting halls, arts and crafts studios, dance studios and a children’s art room.

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