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Newsletter No. 19, Dec. 6, 2022

  • Hits and misses on District meetings.

  • South Bay Bicycling Coalition survey

Council members have been grappling since July with something their predecessors didn’t have to contend with: representing districts.

Later, we’ll talk about those who have been successful, and why it has been a bumpy road for others.

But first a little history on why we switched to districts after more than a century electing council members citywide:

The Legislature passed a law in 2016 it thought would give minorities a better chance at being elected to city councils and school boards if they only had to compete in districts. It allows anyone to sue in superior court to enforce the provisions of the California Voting Rights Act – even if they don’t reside in the city or school district.

Many cities were sued. Those that fought the lawsuits lost and had to pay litigation costs and attorney fees to the victors.

Only Santa Monica appealed its loss, and the case is stalled in an appellate court. But it has already spent millions on the case and will be on the hook for more if it loses.

By the time Torrance was sued, it decided a fight would be too costly.

But the then-Council pledged to look at issues from the standpoint of what’s good for the City as a whole and not just for their districts – a big-picture approach.

In the ordinance approving districts, the Council also included a desire to revert to citywide races if the problematic state law was overturned. But past councils can only encourage future councils. They can’t tie their hands.

Districts do have one benefit: Residents now have a specific Council person to help them with their concerns. And for all practical purposes, we will have districts for the foreseeable future. So how best to capitalize on that?

When the districting ordinance was being passed, now-District 6’s Mike Griffiths talked to then-City Manager LeRoy Jackson about easing into ways of making council members accessible to their specific constituents. At the time, Jackson was more concerned about the Council continuing to take a big-picture approach, so Griffiths’ request was stalled.

In July, however, when the conversion to districts was completed, the Council agreed that it needed to reach out to constituents.

How to do that?

Redondo Beach has had districts from the beginning – more than a century ago. In a previous newsletter on July 25, I mentioned how effectively Redondo Council member Nils Nehrenheim ran his regular sessions, and I shared his format. I also encouraged Council members to reach out to their local homeowner associations.

Since then, as I said earlier, the results have been mixed.

District 4’s Sharon Kalani leads the group – she had her first session in September and her third is scheduled for Dec. 13.

“My goal is to hear what people have for concerns. I can be their voice,” she said, explaining the complexities of her district with its three distinct neighborhoods: the northern end bordering the Torrance Refinery, the southern end of tract homes, with Old Torrance sandwiched between them.

At her meetings, City staff has been there to answer questions, and Kalani said she is appreciative of their support.

Not far behind are two of the Council’s newest members, District 2’s Bridgett Lewis and District 3’s Asam Sheikh, who started by meeting with their homeowner groups. They both will have district meetings this month.

Griffiths is planning to have his first session in early 2023.

District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci had his first meeting on Nov. 7 at El Retiro Library. The reviews varied. Some residents went to talk to him about issues that concerned them but said they felt uncomfortable voicing them once the meeting was hijacked by the homeless issue.

The general impression: Mattucci doesn’t fully understand how to run a meeting. City staff came to his session, as they did to Kalani’s, but audience members weren’t quite sure what they were doing there.

However, that meeting was a success compared to Jon Kaji’s District 1 gathering.

On Nov. 8, Torrance Alerts sent out a blast inviting District 1 residents to a community meeting on Nov. 10. The 6 p.m. session was held in the 4300 block of 176th St.

Based on the emails I received, the meeting sounded as if it was a disaster, and Chief Jay Hart apologized for all the problems.

No, that wasn’t a typo. The apology came from Hart, not Kaji whose meeting it was. It’s not quite clear why Hart was put in this position in the first place. Evidently, the police department at the last minute – the reason for the two-day notice – was told to stage the event.

People were unhappy that they had such short notice for a meeting that was held outdoors on a cold evening.

Marianne Hamada, president of the North Torrance Neighborhood Assn., sent Kaji a gracious letter, pointing out that her group would be happy to partner with him so that he could meet – indoors -- with the community. She has yet to get a response from him.

If you want to go:

  • Dec. 12. Bridgett Lewis’ District 2. 5:30 p.m. Toyota Meeting Hall, 3033 Civic Center Drive (across from the Armstrong Theatre). Lewis also has an online option:

Meeting ID: 227 748 416 087

Passcode: 4Fipu7

  • Dec. 13. Sharon Kalani’s District 4. 4:30 p.m. Bartlett Center, 1318 Cravens Ave.

  • Dec. 22. Asam Sheikh’s District 3. 5:30 p.m. Katy Geissert Civic Center Library’s meeting room, 3301 Torrance Blvd.

Before I go:

· The Transportation Committee will discuss Torrance Airport issues on Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. This will be an important meeting.

· The South Bay Bicycling Coalition is surveying area residents. Though I find the current Flagler Lane bicycle proposal problematic, I support the group’s desire to improve options for two-wheelers. To participate: For more information, go to If you submit your responses before Saturday the 10th, you could win a bike or a $200 gift card.

· Wish you had saved a particular issue of this newsletter? Want to get on the subscription list? will be the place to go, thanks to Tony Hale. It’s a work in progress, but the inaugural site should be up and running before the year ends. Down the road, you will see some interesting videos produced by Elizabeth Pino.

· This is the last issue for 2022. Enjoy the holidays. See you in 2023.

Jean Adelsman

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