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Newsletter No. 47

Chen's candidates lose.

Follow the money.

Council backs Metro extension.

Kaji's newest ploy.

Recall updates.

Changing the City charter.

Beach Cities plan challenged.

Ambulance expenses.


Mayor George Chen’s plan to gain control of the Council has failed. Both of his endorsed candidates lost.


The County is still counting votes, but so few are left that it is statistically impossible for Chen to eke out a win.


Bridgett Lewis handily beat Andrew Lee in District 2. Jeremy Gerson defeated Tony Yeh in District 6, but his path was rockier.


Gerson started ahead by four votes; then Yeh led by four. After that, however, Gerson retook the lead, then widened it and never lost it – as of Monday’s count he was 71 votes in the lead.


During a candidate’s forum, Yeh had promised attendees that he would be Chen’s fourth vote. Gerson’s rejoinder: “I’m not anyone’s fourth vote. I’m your vote.” Lee was never so blatant, but he still lost by almost 500 votes.


The various stands and actions by Chen, District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci and District 1’s Jon Kaji mean that the resistance movement to their actions is still needed. Many residents also have expressed hope that someone will take Chen on if he runs for re-election in 2026 in an attempt to make him Torrance’s second one-term mayor.


Election Day got ugly, and Mattucci was right in the thick of it. He was supporting Yeh and showed up with more than a dozen signs he and two colleagues were planting on Skyline Mobile Home Park’s property lining Pacific Coast Highway.


Residents confronted them. Mattucci said they had management’s permission; the residents knew they didn’t. Mattucci told one woman he would have her arrested for interfering with his project. She held her ground. The signs came down.


Another resident wrote me on Election Day alleging that Mattucci “was intimidating senior citizens in a mobile home park.” She said he “must be very afraid of losing this election.”


Follow the money:

My inbox and voice mails were filled on the Saturday before the election with people wanting to make sure I knew about the $75,000 that was raised and spent the day before for Lee and Yeh.


The AA Victory PAC, which says it works to “expand political awareness and power for the Asian American community,” had just reported that it had raised $45,000 from Jerry Saunders, Skyline’s owner, and $30,000 from the Picerne Group.


Picerne, based in Newport Beach, built the apartment building on Crenshaw Blvd. at Lomita Blvd. In the last two weeks of the 2022 election, three Picerne executives and their wives each donated $1,000 to Chen and $1,000 to Mattucci -- $6,000 to each candidate. This time, however, the company was able to give $30,000 to a PAC – their earlier donations were limited to $1,000 per person.


I know about that $1,000 limit because I served on the Blue Ribbon Committee on Ethics and Integrity in 2007. Here’s the back story and its hook to the current situation:


While he was on the City Council, Frank Scotto was concerned about what he saw as ethical lapses in Torrance campaigns, and he vowed to set up an ethics committee if he succeeded in denying Mayor Dan Walker a second term.


Scotto kept his promise. Our chair – his predecessor Dee Hardison – helped us come up with a slew of recommendations the City Council then turned into an ordinance. Real estate interests had poured money into previous campaigns; the new limit stymied that.


Back then PACs weren’t a thing, at least not locally. In recent years, however, Chen has sought out PAC money for himself and his candidates. AA Victory PAC is the most recent example but not the only one in this campaign.


The same report that listed the $75,000 coming in also showed it going out to pay for Lee and Yeh’s campaign expenses.


The Big Question: What do Saunders and Picerne want? The messages I received indicated that residents are wondering if Saunders hopes the Council will not enact rent controls on his mobile-home park and that Picerne may be planning a massive project along the lines of its Lomita apartment building.


But on Election Night, I was talking to someone with deep roots in the local real-estate community. He believes Saunders and Picerne want to turn the mobile-home park into a dense housing project. According to a Skyline resident, however, they have a covenant that protects them until 2037.  


Another excellent source told me Kaji and Chen are working to get Hamilton School redeveloped into housing. Hamilton School has been declared surplus property, but its athletic fields are well-used, even if its classrooms no longer are. That source said the two have talked to Schools Supt. Tim Stowe about this, but Stowe has said the conversation didn’t happen.


We will be watching for further developments with Picerne, Skyline and Hamilton.


In the meantime, District 6’s Mike Griffiths expressed his dismay over the $75,000. At the March 12 City Council meeting he asked if it would be possible to limit PACs, just as our Blue Ribbon Committee had done for candidates’ campaign committees. City Attorney Patrick Sullivan said he would look into it.


An election-financing expert tells me that the City cannot control PACs, but I am hoping that Sullivan learns otherwise.


Council stands up for Metro extension:

Mattucci and Kaji had been pushing to have the Council change its position approving the rail line to Torrance. They made their pitch at the March 12 meeting and were trounced – 5 to 2.


Metro’s representative heard loud and clear that the community wants the extension and that Mattucci and Kaji are outliers among the Council. Add that to the support the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce has shown, and we hope the Metro board gets the message that the majority of Torrance residents want the line.


The board originally had planned to choose the exact route at its board meeting last October. It was delayed to April because of the controversy created by Mattucci and Kaji.


Kaji loses again?:

First Kaji wanted the City to spend $100,000 on an airport land-use study. Six people voted against it – though Mattucci said he liked the idea but he recognized it wouldn’t pass.


Then Kaji proposed a financial review that, to be effective, would have cost almost a half-million dollars and would have told the City what it already knew: The City’s bank account dropped to a shocking low of $81,000 because of the Refinery fire, the ransomware and the pandemic.


But Kaji apparently thinks fraud entered into the equation though he has no grounds to suspect malfeasance. At its Feb. 27 meeting, the Council again refused Kaji’s request.


His latest foray: Behind the scenes, Kaji has alerted City staff that he wants to disband the Historic Preservation Commission, which developers detest. He needs four votes to make that happen. Will he lose again?

 

Recall updates:

The Recall Kaji organizers are closing in on the 60 signatures that they need for the petition that goes to the City Clerk.

 

The Recall Mattucci leaders are further along in the process. They are staffed with residents who are getting neighbors’ signatures. They are thankful for the supporters who have donated funds toward the campaign’s costs.

 

To help the effort, anyone can send checks to the Committee to Recall Torrance Councilmember Aurelio Mattucci 2024 at 23223 Ladeene Ave., Torrance, CA 90505, or they can donate online at https://secure.actblue.com/donate/recall-mattucci.

 

Anyone living in District 5 can sign by emailing jeanadelsman@yahoo.com; I will pass along your information. If you are hearing about this effort for the first time and would like more information, please go to www.TakeBackTorrance.com, and click on The Reasons to Recall Mattucci.

 

Changing the Charter:

The November ballot will most likely have a handful of Torrance proposals, and the City Council started the process of getting public input at its March 12 meeting.


Because District 6’s Mike Griffiths will be termed out next month, this was his last chance as a council member to make a pitch for certain changes he has spoken for in the past.


“We have a 30-day residency requirement for elected officials in our city. I’ve heard so many people say that it seems to be a ridiculously short amount of time to reside in our city and/or our district in order to qualify to run,” he said.


Griffiths didn’t point to a specific person, but many District 1 residents are unhappy with Kaji, who is their representative. Kaji owns a residence in Rancho Palos Verdes, but he rented a house in the district around the time he filed his campaign documents.


The organizers behind a movement to recall him question how much time he spends at that address.


Griffiths is also encouraging a runoff whenever no one gets 50 percent of the vote. Griffiths points to Kaji’s 2022 election win of 44.75 percent with three other candidates splitting the remainder. Griffiths is promoting a mail-only ballot to limit a runoff’s cost.


At the March 12 public hearing, the lion’s share of the discussion went to issues involving the city manager and city attorney’s employment status.


It got a little arcane, but one interesting tidbit came out of it: LeRoy Jackson, the longtime city manager, always said he served at the council’s pleasure and that he didn’t have a contract so that they could fire him at will.


Well, evidently not. Much to the surprise of the City Council, the city charter’s wording required so many hoops, including unanimous council agreement, that firing a city manager would be virtually impossible. The city attorney doesn’t have as many protections, but he is covered by civil service.


There are two more public hearings for residents to offer their input: April 23 and June 4.  


The laundry list of issues they are looking at include major pay raises for the mayor and council and changes to the city clerk and city treasurer’s jobs.

 

A slap to Beach Cities Health District

Normally, we don’t pay too much attention to Redondo Beach City Council actions, but this one could make some West Torrance residents happy. The Beach Cities Health District has been trying to do a major revamping of its Prospect campus that borders on Torrance’s Flagler Lane.


So far, Torrance has thwarted BCHD’s actions that would impact its residents. Now it appears that Redondo’s City Council might also have had enough of the District’s antics. The City of Redondo Beach has a proposal that would reduce the floor area ratio (FAR in planning parlance) for public properties.


If the City passes it, that change would kill the BCHD plan, and the district is encouraging residents to protest the proposal.


Ambulance issues:

Have you or someone you know found yourself needing Torrance’s ambulance service? If so, I would be interested in talking to you about the experience financially. Please email me at jeanadelsman@yahoo.com.  

 

How late was it?:

The March 12 meeting adjourned at 1:50 a.m.

 

Before I go:

v The Torrance Airport Assn. filed suit March 8 to stop the fees that would cost pilots $6 each time they landed. The City isn’t commenting on the suit, but other cities have instituted them. When Santa Monica started charging landing fees, pilots sued that city and lost.


v The Council started to address the issue of pickleball noise by mandating that new courts must be 250 feet from a residence. The ordinance will have a second reading at the Council’s March 26 meeting.

 

v Interested in commenting on possible changes to the Civic Center? The City has a survey with only 10 questions and has extended its deadline to the end of March. To comment on the Torrance Civic Center Master Plan & Economic Feasibility Study project, go to https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=NT7r5-W9606o7XDZotjDGZqBJUdMqXZNlCAvW87WIOtURUg1OTdOUlZBRjVQUzhQN09XOUhMUjY1Ry4u.

 

v The City’s deadline for correspondence to be included in the Council’s pre-meeting public supplemental is now 5:30 p.m. the Monday before the meeting. The Council will receive anything that comes in later before the meeting, but it won’t be posted until Wednesday. It will be at the top of the agenda. You can also leave voicemails to be included as Oral Communications in the supplemental. Call 310-618-2404 to leave up to a two-minute recording that will be transcribed. Voicemails have the same deadlines as the emails.


Want to tell the City Council your opinion on an agenda item or address any concerns? Send it to  CityCouncil@torranceca.gov; in the subject line put the agenda item or the topic. If you also want your comments to appear in an agenda item’s Staff Report, send it as well to CouncilMeetingPublicComment@torranceca.gov.

Jean Adelsman

 

Feel free to share this email -- or tell friends about www.TakeBackTorrance.com. And if you email a response to jeanadelsman@yahoo.com, please indicate whether you are expressing a thought for my eyes only or whether I may share your comments with the whole audience.  

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1 Komentar


patti.crane
19 Mar

@Jean Thank you for adding me to this newsletter mailing list. As I scroll through past issues I see you are doing the hard work of civic accountability against difficult odds. The people of Torrance owe you our gratitude. Patti Crane

Suka
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