TORRANCE — Five office buildings--including two 10-story high-rises--have been proposed for a vacant parcel just north of the Del Amo Fashion Center at one of the city's busiest intersections.
Oxford Properties Inc. hopes to create a corporate campus environment on nearly 17 acres around the existing Marriott Hotel near Hawthorne and Torrance boulevards in the heart of the city's business district.
Among prospective tenants is CCH/Computax Inc., a major computerized tax-processing firm in Torrance, which would be a limited partner in an eight-story building--the first of the five that would be built in three phases over seven years. A spokesman for Computax said that the company would consolidate several of its operations in the South Bay into that new office building.
The City Council last week authorized a full environmental impact report on the project. That authorization is only the first of many steps in the long process toward final city approval, but some homeowners and City Council members are already expressing concern over the project, particularly about its impact on traffic and sewer and storm drain systems.
"I am 99% sure that our association would have grave concerns over the project," said Barbara Honeycutt, president of the Southwood Homeowners Assn., which represents about 2,200 households in the southwest quadrant of Hawthorne and Torrance boulevards. Honeycutt said her board of directors has not discussed the project but will do so at a future meeting.
Preliminary plans call for two 10-story towers, an eight-story structure, two buildings of four and three stories and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant for a total of nearly 750,000 square feet. Two multistory parking structures for 2,400 cars are also proposed.
The nearby Del Amo Financial Center, including the 12-story Union Bank tower, totals about 685,000 square feet.
"If they are proposing what was presented to me in a separate meeting, I think they are expecting to put too much on the property," said Councilman Bill Applegate. "I don't want (Hawthorne Boulevard) to look like Ventura Boulevard in Encino" with a lot of high-rise buildings.
"It's a major project and it will be a major decision," said Mayor Katy Geissert. "We still have a long road ahead of us. I am not opposed to taller structures, but there has to be some compensation, perhaps with more open areas around it. This is probably one of the most important corners, one of the busiest corners in the city."
Scott Ogilvie, an attorney representing Oxford, said changes could be made in the project within the next two weeks. He said during that time company representatives will meet privately with city planning officials and members of the City Council to discuss their concerns.
Rosalie Woodward, a city planner, said it has become common for developers to meet privately with council members before submitting final plans for approval. She said developers do not want to spend thousands of dollars on plans that are not likely to be approved.
However, she added, developers cannot put too much stock in what is said in those private meetings.
Council members "are not about to tip their hands that early," Woodward said. "They have to maintain their neutrality until a project formally comes before them."
Woodward said that a draft of the study to be prepared by Environmental Perspectives of Santa Ana will be available for public comment in August.
An initial environmental assessment by the Planning Department concluded that the complete study was needed because the project's impact on sewer and storm drain capacities could be significant. The staff report also said that the additional traffic generated by the project could add to the congestion in the already heavily traveled area.
The nearly 17-acre lot for the proposed project has been vacant for almost 10 years since the White Front department store closed. There was talk in the mid-1970s about the Del Amo Fashion Center expanding onto the parcel, but the mall owners decided instead to move south across Carson Street.
In 1982, according to a city Planning Department official, Oxford considered building medical office space, but plans were never submitted to the city. (The current proposal call for 80,000 square feet of the space to be used for medical offices.)
Meanwhile, the Hawthorne-Torrance intersection has developed into one of the area's busiest, according to the state Department of Transportation, with eight lanes on Hawthorne and six lanes on Torrance.
Karl Berger, an engineer with Caltrans, said that about 90,000 vehicles cross the intersection of Hawthorne and Torrance boulevards daily.
"It is a high-volume intersection, no question about it," Berger said.
In June, 1985, state engineers measured traffic on Torrance Boulevard crossing Hawthorne between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., on a midweek day. They counted 1,515 cars traveling east and 1,589 cars going west, an increase of 25% and 30%, respectively, from 1984.