TORRANCE — Claiming that sufficient guest parking was not provided--although the developers exceeded the building code requirements--the City Council this week overturned the Planning Commission's approval of a 416-unit condominium complex that would have been part of the Park Del Amo project.
The City Council also delayed until next week a decision on two other proposals for another 568 units at the massive residential and commercial project along Sepulveda Boulevard between Madrona Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard. The council cited parking problems with those projects, and indicated that it would not approve them either. The council asked the city attorney to determine the deadline for having to approve the tract maps before making a final decision.
After the meeting, the developers said parking was not the real issue. They said the council delayed their projects in protest of the ongoing dispute between the city and developers over ownership of neighboring Madrona Marsh.
A 1983 agreement by the developers to turn over some of the marsh to the city is tied up in court. The city wants clear title to the land, but the developers want to dedicate the marsh through an easement in which they would retain ownership if the marsh ever dried up.
"The council is just looking to delay our project," said Jerry Rogers, a spokesman for Torrance Investment Co., the major partner in the Park Del Amo project. "I think their prejudice was very evident. We've been discussing these plans for three or four months."
Immediately after the meeting, a representative for Lincoln Property Co., which sought to build the 416-unit condominium complex, said he agreed that the marsh dispute played a role in denial of their project.
But Wednesday morning, Mike Sondermann, general managing partner of the company, downplayed the connection, saying: "We're trying to assess the situation. We're the new kids on the block. We don't know if we are impacted" by the dispute over the marsh.
'No Marsh, No Development'
Members of the Friends of Madrona Marsh, the environmental group that waged the fight to save the marsh, had urged the council Tuesday night to reject the proposals because the marsh issue had not been resolved.
"No marsh, no development," said Rob Katherman, a spokesman for the group. "That was part of the agreement. Until that is done, any action on these developments is premature."
Sam Suitt, the founding president of the group, said he was "astounded and angry" that the developers would have the "gall, nerve and presumption" to ask for approval of the projects. "You are legal adversaries with the developers," he told the council.
But the City Council denied that its decision was based on the marsh dispute.
"Legally, we can't deny the projects because of the marsh," said Councilman Mark Wirth, noting that City Atty. Stanley Remelmeyer had warned the council that it could be liable for damages if the projects were denied because of the marsh dispute and the city lost its case in court.
Wirth said parking is insufficient in the enclosed residential villages. He acknowledged that the developer exceeded the parking code requirements for the complex, but said it was still not enough.
Mayor Katy Geissert said she found the proposals "frightening," and said she did not like the idea of having to decide on nearly 1,000 residential units in one night.
"This is a major decision to make," she said. "You have a situation here without parallel in the city. It is a self-contained community. Most condo development have been much more limited and allowed for on-street parking. There are no options for that here."
Residents of the first residential village completed in Park Del Amo also urged the council to deny the 416-unit condo complex, saying that they are experiencing parking problems and another large complex would make the situation worse.
Opposed to Plan
Bud Goff, a spokesman for the Springwood Homeowners Assn., said the number of guest parking spots--which also exceeded code requirements--is not enough. He said vehicles illegally park in fire lanes or are forced to park outside the development more than a mile away.
Goff said his group also was opposed to a plan by Lincoln Properties to initially rent the units, saying their property values would go down.
Lincoln Property, based in Van Nuys, had sought to build the 416 units in 31 two-story buildings over 13 common parking garages at Maple Avenue and Sepulveda. City code requires 84 guest parking spots, and the developer had agreed to provide 96 spots.
Lincoln Properties planned to buy a 15.3-acre parcel for the project from developer Ray Watt, who owns the residential portion of the Park Del Amo project. Sondermann declined to say whether the sale had been contingent on city approval of his project or whether his company will pursue the plan.
The plans the City Council postponed a decision on until next week are proposed by Watt. He is seeking to build 422 town houses and 146 detached condominiums on the south side of Toledo Street. Watt had agreed to provide 148 guest parking spots for the larger project, although only 85 are required. The code requires 30 guest parking spots on the other project, but 88 are being proposed.
Another Watt proposal to build 132 rental units for senior citizens is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on May 21.