Was Car2Go Ever Approved by the City Council?

Mayor Furey announced at the last council meeting that Torrance will host a public meeting tomorrow night to provide information about and receive public comment with regard to Car2Go.  The timing of the planned meeting is somewhat odd given that the city has already provided authorization for the company to begin operating within its borders as evidenced by the many smart cars parked in residential areas with the distinct Car2Go logo that have been spotted throughout Torrance.

Car2Go was last discussed by the Council at the April 9th, 2013 meeting.  There, several members of the public voiced support for the company, including the Executive Director of the South Bay Cities Council of Government who claimed that Car2Go was supported by area businesses as it provided low cost mobility.  He also noted it could reduce the need for secondary cars and serve as a compliment to public transit.

Many other members of the community spoke in opposition to Car2Go.  Several residents expressed concern that would it further restrict available parking spaces, especially in such areas as downtown and around El Camino College.  Representatives from Honda, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, and All Yellow Cab all expressed concerns that there be a level playing field.  Enterprise complained that they there were required to provide off street parking at considerable expense for their fleet of 550 cars while it appeared that Car2Go would not. All Yellow Cab explained that taxi companies pay an estimated $220K in annual fees to Torrance including a per company $35K annual franchise charge.  Honda, who is affiliated with Car2Go’s closest competitor ZipCar, urged the Council to open the South Bay market to all competitors on comparable terms.

The Council ended up effectively tabling the issue by directing staff to create a draft of a non-exclusive franchise agreement for car-sharing programs for consideration at the May 7th, 2013 council meeting.  The minutes for that date, however, reflect that the item was not heard at that time.  It came up again on the agenda at the July 2nd, 2013 meeting but was deferred.  I could find no record of it being discussed since that date which raises the question of why the agreement was apparently never brought forward for public comment and approval by the Council as was done in neighboring cities such as Hermosa and Redondo Beach.

The Beach Reporter noted that Redondo Beach requires Car2Go to pay an annual fee of approximately $40K to operate within their city.  Torrance, on the other hand, is only requiring that Car2Go secure a business license at $108 per car.

The Daily Breeze also reported that City Hall has received several complaints from residents due to Car2Go cars parked in residential areas since the program was implemented.  In response to those complaints Mayor Scotto promised to, “meet with them [Car2Go] and suggest areas where they could park their cars that would be less intrusive to residents.”

How will that less intrusive parking plan be implemented?  Why does it appear that other cities were able to negotiate much more favorable franchise terms?  Did the Council ever approve this?  These are just a few of the questions that I’m sure residents will want answered at the meeting tomorrow, the details of which are as follows:

Location: City Hall West Annex Commission Room 
Date: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 
Time: 7:00 p.m. 

Council Meeting Notes: Goodrich Casts Lone Abstaining Vote

In only his second council meeting, Councilman Goodrich displayed a willingness to depart from the views of his much senior in age colleagues on the Council.  His dissenting vote came as the Council took up the issue of adopting a resolution in support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  Goodrich’s vote, although not cast on a particularly significant matter as Torrance does not control the implementation of the BDCP, may have served as a signal to the other Council members that he intends to vote his conscience even if his opinion may not be the popular one.

Prior to casting his vote, Goodrich briefly explained his viewpoint.  He claimed that his research indicated that many organizations statewide were opposed to the BDCP.  He specifically cited the League of Women Voters and quoted that organization as stating that this “would be a bad deal for taxpayers.”  Goodrich then related his concern that creating a reliance upon water that comes from as far as 300 miles away could be a national security liability.  City Staff responded to that concern by stating that the City’s water currently comes from that distance and that we have had no saftey concerns to date.

Advocates of the BDCP claim that it will assure the state’s water security at a reasonable cost.  Key concerns about the project that have been raised include: 1) incomplete design with Project costs at a minumum of $25 billion; 2) it will not attain expected water reliability goals; and 3) it will degrade Delta water quality thereby harming the estuary’s farmers and acquatic ecosystems.

After a brief discussion, the Council voted to approve the measure in support of the BDCP with Goodrich casting the lone abstaining vote of the evening.  In the same meeting, the Council also unanimously approved a measure to limit criminal activity at massage parlors.

 

Will Torrance Crack Down on “Happy Endings” Hurt Local Businesses?

Massage Parlor Arrest PicTorrance is considering a new ordinance that is designed to curtail illegal activity that may be occurring at some of the 61 massage establishments currently operating within the city.  It could, however, end up harming local businesses.  The proposed ordinance would prohibit any new massage establishment from opening in a location that was closed due to criminal activity for a period of two years.

The staff report explained that the Torrance Police Department (TPD) has recently conducted successful undercover “sting” operations that have resulted in the eventual revocation of the massage establishment’s business license.  As reported recently by the Daily Breeze, these operations include the TPD sending male officers into the establishments to see if masseuses offer more than just a massage.  One of these operations resulted in the arrests of the two individuals pictured above, one of which allegedly performed a sex act on an undercover officer.

According to the City, these undercover operations are time consuming and expensive to perform.  The concern is that even when the city is able to shut down an offending establishment it is all too easy for the property owner to re-lease the premises to another massage business as all of the fixtures necessary to perform such an establishment usually remain in place.

Unfortunately, the ordinance also has the potential to have a negative impact on the business community.  The restrictions placed upon re-leasing could create further vacancies in an already challenging commercial real estate market.  In addition, it could create hardships for legitimate massage establishments as their entire operation can be shut down by one rogue employee trying to make an extra buck.

That was precisely the concern raised by the Miyako Hotel at a recent hearing on the subject.  A representative from that Hotel worried that the Hotel’s spa could be closed due to the actions of only one employee.  The representative also mentioned that the services provided by the spa were a major component of the Hotel as those services are an integral part of the Japanese culture – a key clientale of the Miyako Hotel.  Implementing the ordinance could serve another blow to the Asian business community that is already reeling after the recent announcement that Toyota will move its Torrance based headquarters to Texas.

Will this ordinance have the intended effect of limiting the growth of seedy massage establishments that are nothing more than fronts for prostitution?  Or will it further degrade the ability of legitimate businesses to operate within Torrance?  The City Council will grapple with these questions when they decide the issue at the Council meeting this coming Tuesday night.

This issue also raises another interesting question that is ancillary to the matter but worthy of debate.  With burglaries and car thefts on the rise in Torrance, is having the TPD officers go undercover soliciting and apparently receiving “happy endings” the best use of the TPD’s limited resources?

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