Resident Wages War against Penske and City of Torrance

 

Ken Christiansen is at war with Penske Cadillac and the City of Torrance and he is not backing down.  For Ken, nothing quite encapsulates the conflict like the time his son came to visit him upon returning from serving in the military overseas.  His son could not stand the noise and nuisance from the imageneighboring Penske dealership as it reminded him too much of a war zone and he had to stay at a friends instead of staying at his father’s house.

The issues arose nearly a decade ago when the dealership expanded and upgraded the site.  Ken claims that affected residents were never notified about the expansion via the requisite mailers and had no opportunity to voice their concerns at Planning Commission meetings.  Ken also believes the City was complicit in allowing the remodel to go forward against code.

As an example, he cites municipal code Section 95.3.24 that requires that all work at an automobile repair shop be performed within a building.  He also cites 93.2.36 that imposes that auto dealerships maintain sufficient spaces for employee parking.  Despite these code sections, the repair bays were built without enclosing walls and there are not enough spaces for employee parking.  The City also allowed a non-permitted car wash to be constructed on the premises.

Chain link fence dividing Penske and Columbia Park

Chain link fence dividing Penske and Columbia Park

Penske’s conditional use permit (CUP) formally approved in January 2006 imposed additional operating restrictions such as requiring all employees and visitors to park on site, banning chain link fences, and limiting nuisance and noise.  According to Ken, Penske has never abided by these restrictions triggering hundreds of complaints from many residents that have continued unabated to this day.

A sampling of those complaints include:

  • Parking: Penske employees use residential streets for parking resulting in high traffic and limited space for residents, tow trucks also drop cars off on the street
  • Noise: Horns honking 300 to 400 times a day, noise from air guns and other machinery in the open service bays, a compressor that runs 24/7 and omits a loud noise several times a minute, constant car alarms, construction of chain link fence instead of concrete barrier to act as sound barrier
  • Nuisance: Brake fluid and other hazardous waste dumped into storm drains that spills into Columbia Park, bright lights that shine all night into windows of surrounding homes, security cameras pointed at residents homes recording resident activities, rude and threatening employees that harass residents
Non-enclosed Service Bays at Penske Cadillac

Non-enclosed Service Bays at Penske

One of Ken’s neighbors summarized the situation as follows:

“We’ve all been experiencing migraine headaches. After some research, we realized it’s the lights that shine into our home that are causing them. We’ve had to buy black out curtains for our entire house. We can’t even open our windows or shades. Ever! It’s so loud all the time. Car alarms go off all day and night. Loud machines are always going off. Horns honking at least a couple hundred times a day. Tow trucks at all hours waking us up. Constant trash from employees eating in their cars then throwing the trash in our front yard. Cigarette packs, cigarette butts, water bottles, soda cans, all kinds of trash gets thrown on our lawns and on Columbia parks parking area. All the employees park in front of my house leaving us with no parking.  We’ve experienced, on numerous occasions, men and woman, in their uniforms, doing sexual acts right in front of my house.  They do drugs in front of my house and on numerous occasions I’ve seen drug deals go down. They also have cameras pointing into my home … I personally don’t feel safe here.”

Used condom in 186th Street

Used condom in 186th Street

The City has attempted to resolve the conflict by coordinating a number of community round tables to mediate and address resident concerns, but the problems seem to only have escalated.  After one such meeting with Penske, Ken claims the Penske General Manager threatened that “he needed to be careful or he might find himself with a gunny sack over his head getting beat with a baseball bat.”  That threat resulted in a call to the police.

In a recent e-mail dated the morning of August 12, 2015 Ken wrote to Torrance Senior Environmental Quality Officer, Sharron Jones, expressing some of his ongoing concerns and alluding to the incident where he says he was threatened.  That e-mail included the following demand:

“I still want an official comment on why Phil Bradshaw [City of Torrance Environmental Quality Officer] was in David Driscols [Penske General Manager] office when the police arrived when there is no way he could have gotten there after I was threatened and before the police got there. After begging him for city representation at the meeting he ends up being in the office the whole time. To clarify, with the spirit of transparency that the new mayor campaigned on, please explain why he refused to be at the meeting but needed to be in the office of the man who threatened me.”

Shortly after sending the e-mail, Ken received a letter from the Community Development Department also dated August 12, 2015 stating that their office had received multiple complaints concerning Ken’s property and that he was in violation of the Torrance Municipal Code for infractions such as:

  • Litter, trash, and debris on property and lack of maintenance of grounds
  • Operating a business from his home without a business license
  • Discontinuing garage space and parking a vehicle on lawn
  • Overgrown vegetation and shrubbery
Christiansen Residence

Christiansen Residence

The letter from the Community Development Department was signed by the very same Phil Bradshaw Ken had complained about in his e-mail.  Ken denies all the City’s allegations and views the letter as pure retaliation and harassment against him because he called out one of the City employees for being in league with Penske.

In late September, Ken received another letter stating that the City would be scheduling a site inspection of his home the week of October 19th.  Ken has refused to allow City employees on his property for the site inspection and the matter is pending resolution.

Ken has not been able to sleep in his room for two years as the noise from the compressor has become intolerable.  When asked why he stays in his home, Ken said that his son fought in the military to preserve American values.  He asked what type of an example would he be if he sent his son off to war but was not willing to stand up to bullies and fight the battles here at home.  He plans to sue the City and is currently trying to obtain enough money to pay an attorney as he believes that is the only way he can get the City to enforce the Code and the Conditional Use Permit and restore peace to the local residents.

31 comments

  • anonymous

    How much money did Penske contribute to our latest elected officials?

  • anonymous

    Penske contributes big tax dollars to Torrance. The city is all for big business, the residents be damned.

  • Anonymous

    Razor wire is against the code I believe because I wanted to put it around my shop and was told I couldn’t.

  • A concerned person

    I’ve been following Kens fight with Penske and then some of the dirty tricks of the City for several years and each time something else comes up it is unbelievable- both for what Penske gets by with, the behavior of the employees, and the lack of adequate response from the city. If it was a residential area full of rich folks you can bet the reaction from the city would be different. Penske wouldn’t even be there.

  • Corey

    After living on ashley and 186th street for 20+ years, i am appalled at the lack of community pride or concern for even the basic comfort of neighboring homes as demonstrated by Penske Cadillac. The exorbitant revenue consumed by this luxury vehicle dealer through the contribution of our community, should easily account for costs required to become compliant with city ordinance. Shockingly, ownership and senior management refuse the communities plea for simple building additions with calous indignation; leaving no recourse but public outrage.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s hoping that veteran organizations get involved to make the city more aware of the nuisance this cesspool of a so called “establishment”, is doing to the local community and especially those who have gone to fight for the very freedoms they’re taking for granted and violating.

  • Anonymous

    Another example of a business not caring about the community. Go figure. I support Ken

  • Anonymous

    This is Ken christiansen, kcdb999@gmail.com
    The deal was made with the previous mayor, Frank Scotto. His tow trucks dropped off 12- 18 cars a week for years. The day he termed out they stopped, COMPLETELY.
    My neighbor said she called to complain and heard a recording referring people to Frank Scotto Towing.
    That’s how they got through plan check and code enforcement.
    There is so much more…video of employees having time trials down to the day care at the end of the street.
    Email me any time

    • anonymous

      Is there any relief from the current mayor?

      • Anonymous

        None, I went before the city counsel and the Mayor assigned a part time college student to ” look into it”.
        This mayor was on the city counsel when Penske got the ok at plan check.

    • anonymous

      Have you tried 7 on Your Side or other ombudsmen from other TV stations? Getting a TV reporter out there would change their tune pronto! Talk to neighbors and organize a march. Picket the place. Publicity will get the city off their tails.

  • Anonymous

    I lived two doors from Ken, for 6 years, and agree the parking was ridiculous. I even had an employee park in my driveway entrance and had to call police. Noise…OMG.

  • anonymous

    It sounds like Penske has plans to expand and wants your properties. If that’s what’s going on, then the city would be in on it. Think outside the box. There’s something rotten in Denmark.

    • Anonymous

      Penske is harassing my landlord to sell them the property I live on.
      Hell burn it b4 he sells to them.

    • Anonymous

      Penske has been harassing my landlord to get him to sell the property to them. He has a public email address and a very private one. Somehow they got his private one and he was furious.

  • “Nuisance: Brake fluid and other hazardous waste dumped into storm drains…” If you can verify that this actually happening, you should write or call the California Emergency Management Agency at (800) 852-7550, or 1(888) CLEAN LA, both numbers are accessible 24 hours each day. (These are also the primary reporting numbers for agencies such as Fish & Game, and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards.) The first number is the State’s and the second is the County’s. I recommend you call the State number, they are known to slap HUGE fines to offending parties, including the CITY who has jurisdiction but failed to enforce compliance with Federal and State Clean Water Act requirements. Of course, when the City is fined, we know who actually is paying!

    • There’s also the EPA. Dealerships are supposed to maintain certain environmental, like having drains equipped to deal with the run off and proper disposal of hazardous waste. I worked fur a Torrance dealership for 10 years and know fire a fact that the dealership I was at faced fines for accidental violations unless we repaired them. The company I worked for was environmentally conscious though.

  • Anonymous

    This Guy Ken Has Harassed Employees & Vandalized MANY Cars, This Man Deserves To Be Prosecuted For Vandalism. The Company Actually Does Great For The Community, Employed Hundreds Of Hard Working Americans & Pays Thousands & Thousands Of American Tax Dollars. That Is Only Helping The Up keep Your City And More Important Keeping You Safe… I Can Guarantee You, Everyone Complaining About Parking Has Had a Significant Increase In Their Property Value Since Penske Opened Up. But Is Anyone Complaining About That?? Carry On….

    • T. R

      I just moved into the neighborhood. I had no idea what was going on. That is, until, it started happening to me! The noise is unbearable, the semi trucks at all hours of the night unloading cars and wakes me and my children up, the parking is horrific, the employees are rude, aggressive, throw trash everywhere, race cars up and down the street, and are threatening!!! Without being provoked! You must be one of those employees! Imagine if it was you and your family having to listen to those horns every single day, at all hours! What if it was one of your children that had to see the disgusting sexual acts being performed in the cars in front of your home….while in uniform? Or your hard working mother who couldn’t get one nights rest because it’s so loud! How would you feel? Or if your wife or daughter was afraid to walk outside because they don’t know if they’ll be harrased by the male employees? I feel really sorry for you if you can’t look past your asshole and think about the poor residents that have to deal with this kinda crap EVERY SINGLE DAY!! I pay several thousand dollars a month and work my ass off to give my family a home to live in and we can’t even rest peacefully or feel safe in our own home! It’s really sad and you should feel ashamed of yourself!

      • Time to start taking pics of the acts with a zoom lens so they don’t see you and license plates and then call the police.

        • Anonymous

          The neighbors are taking pictures of liscence plates and have videos. The police don’t do anything about it. If anything, they try to turn it around on the residence. If Penske could get a handle on its employees and and just follow the requirements and city codes, we wouldn’t be having these problems. They need to enclose the service bay, turn the huge florecent lights off , that shine right into a neighbors bedrooms, get their employees and customers to park in provided parking areas, and stop the trucks from loading and unloading cars on 186th st, which is also illegal and has a sign posted saying so, then we could all cohabitate! It’s really frustrating and sad that city of Torrance completely disregards its residents for money!

  • JQ

    Hard working Americans? The people that live in these homes are hard working Americans too. They have rights and pay taxes as well. They shouldn’t be subjected to harassment and piles of trash, beer cans, and diapers. They shouldnt have to watch people strip down to their underwear or have sex. Regardless of all the alleged wonderful things Penske does, them and their employees still break the law.

    And the property value remark, what a load of crap. Even if it is true, it doesn’t give Penske the right to break the law. But a few landlords I talked to say they can’t keep tenants very long or even get market price for their rentals due to Penske’s criminal actions.

    If Penske can’t get its act together and control its employees, then they shouldn’t be allowed to conduct business. Just like the rest of us Hard Working Americans.

  • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

    Is Bradshaw the Torrance employee responsible for ensuring Penske’s compliance with All conditions Penske must comply with? If not, then is any city department responsible for non compliance by Penske? Evidence rules the day, and if a simple complaint to the city doesn’t produce meaningful results … The residents must organize, and document the continued problems. If its a noise complaint (which would drive me batty if it is as described) … A videotape with audio, inside a home with both open … Then closed windows (with a device showing the decibels … Windows open and windows shut,), as well as depicting date/time of recording is critical. If this interference By Penske is so omnificent so as to destroy all day and nighttime enjoyment by the residents, that constitutes interference by Penske of the residents right to quiet enjoyment if their own land. A videotape on a tripod inside the home for extended periods is helpful. I would need to see all the evidence, as well as the c.u.p. and applicable statutes before I could take a position on this. But, I gotta admit it sounds like a compelling case for the residents.

    • Ken christiansen

      Hi Linda, I just saw your post. I’m Ken Christiansen, the gentleman in the artical. I have some back ground with the law and have compiled piles of rock solid evidence .
      Emails, video, pictures. If I had an attorney sit down with me he/she would see it literally a slam dunk. It’s 4000 down and 300 an hour for an attorny.
      I’m in front of the city counsil almost every tues

  • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

    Perhaps even neighborhood cameras documenting the specific violations? Cameras installed into parkway trees

  • There is also a new facebook group page here if you want to post photos and evidence. Apparently Penske isn’t the only dealership creating problems https://www.facebook.com/Torrance-Traffic-and-Parking-218469984939109/?fref=ts

  • Anonymous

    Being a victim myself by Mayor’ of the City Of Torrance for being a whistle blower you are not alone. The retaliation tactic
    the City uses is inhumane and criminal. Keep the evidence and find a good attorney., .

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