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Not-So-Drab City Notice Grabs Attention, All Right

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Torrance newspaper ad about a public hearing on a controversial downtown development project has drawn fire from a project critic who claims that the notice reads as if the developer--not the city--wrote it.

Paint store owner John C. Geyer has challenged the city to explain why the public-hearing notice--normally a drab, dryly worded advertisement that appears in the back pages of a newspaper--boasted colored ink, graphics and a glowing description of the project.

In response, City Atty. Kenneth L. Nelson reviewed the notice, which ran in the Downtowner, a free Torrance area shopper in January. It cost the city $200.

Nelson said Friday that he has concluded that the notice was legal and did not represent an improper expense. The notice was intended as an “amplification of the legal notification process,” Nelson said, adding that he found the language “pretty neutral.”

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Michael Bihn, senior principal planner for the city, said the text was written by city staff.

“All we’ve done is taken general information and tried to make it a little more readable,” Bihn said. “As far as I know, there’s no requirement that we not say positive things about a project . . . or that we need to be negative.”

The one-page advertisement described parking garages with “light wells, atriums and extra-high ceilings to promote a comfortable and safe environment for merchants, patrons and residents.”

One building will be rehabilitated to “capture the historic flavor of Old Downtown Torrance,” the ad said. And it promised that project buildings “will feature the clean, simple lines reminiscent of the Irving John Gill style of architecture.”

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The notice was intended to publicize a public hearing on the development plan, which divided Torrance residents but was approved by the City Council on March 5. Some critics have claimed that the City Council was biased in the developers’ favor from the start. The project is being developed by Gascon Mar Ltd. of San Diego and Sam Levy Investment Partnership of Torrance.

Geyer, who complained to the council at a hearing and in a letter, says the notice was one-sided, lacking any mention of negative aspects of the project. He has never seen a legal notice like it, he says.

“It sounds,” adds Geyer, “like the developer wrote it and the city paid for it.”


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