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Newsletter No. 4, July 31, 2022

· Gun store proposed for downtown Torrance.

Gun store? In Downtown Torrance? If this is news to you, let me bring you up to date.

A few months ago, the owners of a Carson gun shop filed plans for an outlet in Downtown Torrance. A number of people who heard about the proposal protested, but the plans were approved. Now, appeals have been filed with the City.

City staff from two departments made three mistakes. Two were human errors, which have been acknowledged. The third was a judgment call – and that will ultimately be the point of today’s newsletter.

The first mistake was failing to get protest letters to staff. The second involved noticing. The Downtown district has additional requirements, which include informing every business of certain things, and that apparently wasn’t done.

To rectify those issues, the deadline for filing an appeal was extended. On Facebook, I posted a screenshot of the Breeze’s front page article on the issue with this comment:

“Human error caused the City to extend the deadline to appeal its approval of the gun store in a family-oriented shopping area near two schools. Does someone in Old Torrance have 50 bucks to ensure that this proposal gets a public airing?”

Some people mistakenly thought I oppose gun shops. That’s not my issue here. My problem with this whole affair: City officials weren’t hearing the level of concern and realizing a public airing was needed.

In my last newsletter, I raised the need for area homeowner associations to step up and hold our Council members accountable. We need public conversations on issues.

The gun store is a good example of an opportunity for HOAs to have led a discussion so that the Community Development staff could have better understood the need for a Planning Commission review.

Clearly the overwhelming majority of new businesses don’t raise so much as an eyebrow. In fact, hats off to Fran Fulton and her crew for their super diligence in bringing new ventures to Torrance.

However, when a business raises not just eyebrows but outrage, we need to ensure that it gets a hearing.

I asked Michelle Ramirez, the City’s director of Community Development, what it would have taken to trigger sending the proposal to the Planning Commission. This was her response:

In reviewing any application, it must meet the standards of the Torrance Municipal Code. There are a number of ways staff reviews these standards including consulting with other City departments (i.e. Fire, Police, Public Works, City Attorney's Office, etc.). If the project was found to either not be in compliance with the Torrance Municipal Code or a reviewing department were to recommend denial of the application, staff notifies the applicant and then it would be referred to the Planning Commission. In regards to the proposed retail gun shop, it did not receive opposition from any City department and staff felt that it met the standards of the Torrance Municipal Code."

What’s missing? Input from the Public. I won’t fault Ms. Ramirez for not including residents if that’s not her marching orders. The question is who should be making that directive? The City Manager? The City Council? I’m not sure whose responsibility it is, but the public needs to be involved in the decision-making.

Interestingly, the Downtown Torrance Assn. polled its membership, which is mainly comprised of business owners. Asked if they supported a gun store in Downtown Torrance, 80 percent of those responding said no.

My inbox has been full of emails from people concerned about the issue, as well as some from others who have no problem with it.

One writer pointed out that guns are already for sale in Downtown Torrance at a pawnshop licensed to sell guns. But another asked, does it sell ammunition?

Many of the emails questioned if the store could be barred from selling assault weapons or devices that can turn guns into fully automatic weapons.

Lastly, two other observations: One person visited the Carson operation and was pleased by the staff’s professionalism. But another pointed out that the Carson store is not in a bustling commercial area with foot traffic but in a quieter area comparable to where Jack Walser sells guns in Torrance.

When I moved to the South Bay in 1984, the City recognized that Downtown had seen a better day, and for the last 40 years everyone has been working to reinvigorate it. Those who deeply care about the direction of the area deserve a forum in which to be heard.

They should not have had to pay $50 to make that happen.

Before I go:

· The deadline for District 2 residents to apply for a City Council seat is Thursday at 5 p.m. Here is where to find more information and the application:

· Thanks to a newsletter subscriber who requested that I number the issues and that I sign them.

Jean Adelsman

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