TORRANCE — The City Council this week voted unanimously to overturn Planning Commission approval for a three-story, 56-unit motel on Hawthorne Boulevard, saying the project was "incompatible" with the surrounding area.
The proposed motel would have been built on an L-shaped lot at Garnet Street and Hawthorne Boulevard and would have surrounded on two sides an auto repair and tire shop. There is an apartment complex east of the property and a motel that was approved last year lies to the north.
Mayor Jim Armstrong, who said he voted against the project with some reluctance, directed staff to study current development standards for motels. He said it seemed to "be a little unfair" that because the property seemed the wrong place for a motel, the developer was turned down in spite of having met the city requirements.
Richard Knickerbocker, an attorney representing the property owner, King You Chi of Santa Monica, said it was frustrating to have met the conditions to build, only to be denied permission.
"You spend a lot of money, then you find out that you can't go ahead," he said after the meeting. He would not say how much money was spent or what the property owner would now do with the property.
Councilwoman Katy Geissert said it "boggles the mind as to what would be an ideal use of an L-shaped lot," but she added that a motel would not be compatible with the surrounding land uses.
Councilman Bill Applegate said phrases such as "misplaced" and "sandwiched in" came to his mind when he saw the property. He added that allowing a motel next door to an existing motel would be "making a bad situation worse."
The owners of the existing motel and the auto shop had also complained that the project was not compatible. Former City Manager Ed Ferraro, representing the auto shop owner, argued that the proposed motel would surround the shop like a "wall," and he expressed concern that enough parking was not being provided at the proposed motel.
Owen Petersen, a Torrance attorney representing the owners of the existing motel, said a new environmental assessment should have been prepared because substantial development, including expansion of the Del Amo Fashion Center, has occurred since the last study was done in 1979.
An environmental assessment was done in 1979 when the property owner proposed building a 68-unit motel on the same site. He received approval for that project, but he never built it. In 1980, he received permission to build a 59-unit motel, but he never built that one either.