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CERRITOS COLLEGE REQUESTS TO PARK AUTO SQUARE CARS AT STRAWBERRY FIELDS AFTER SIGNING AGREEMENT WITH NORM REEVES FOR $35,500 PER MONTH

Norm Reeves Honda Cerritos cars parked at the former Manassero strawberry fields. Many Cerritos residents were irate, Cerritos College apologized for its “lack of communication to Cerritos related to the use of the property.”

 

UPDATE: The College has scheduled a town hall meeting Aug. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Teleconference Room LC 155 on campus at 11110 Alondra Blvd in Norwalk. You can email the President’s office, [email protected] for a free parking pass.

 

By Brian Hews, Julia Bok, and Tammye McDuff

Cerritos City Council convened for another meeting on August 10 but this meeting had a little different feel to it.

During public comments, Cerritos residents Sri Ramanathan and Mel Cortez both expressed confusion with the work being done to the area where the original Manassero Farms had been. The strawberry field had been located at 166th and Studebaker for many years, but recently closed and was being graded.

Councilman Naresh Solanki asked staff about the strawberry fields area. Community Development Director Torrey Contreras answered that the construction began without the city manager’s knowledge or consent.

Contreras and City Manager Art Gallucci only found out after being notified by residents and then went to inspect the site.

“We did not know anything about it,” Contreras told HMG-CN, “many residents called irate about the project.”

The City immediately issued a stop work notice after learning that Cerritos College was creating parking for faculty and students and for the storage of automobiles for the Cerritos Auto Square.

The City argued wrongful use of the property by the College using California Government Code Section 53094 which states, “The governing board of the school district may not take action when the proposed use of the property by the school district is for non-classroom facilities, including, but not limited to, warehouses, administrative buildings, and automotive storage and repair buildings.”

Contreras said, “Any use of that area that goes beyond the day-to-day operations of the College that is for non-educational purposes, such as supporting the Auto Square for monetary profit, would fall under the city’s jurisdiction to regulate, they need to file a temporary use permit which needs to be approved by the City Council.”

Indeed, it would be learned earlier this week after inquiries by HMG-CN that the College had executed a four-year rental agreement with Norm Reeves Honda Cerritos at their July 19 Board meeting that would pay the district $35,500 per month, $426,000 annually, for use of the property.

And they did not tell anyone in Cerritos.

 

 

 

 

Message to Cerritos College Board members sent to HMG-CN this week.

 

 

In an interview with HMG-CN, Felipe Lopez, Cerritos College’s Vice President of Fiscal Services, stated that there was a misunderstanding, “We could’ve done a better job on communicating but we are now focused on working with the city to meet their expectations.”

Cerritos officials and HMG-CN were hearing different stories about the use of the strawberry fields, some saying that the College would designate the fields as student/teacher parking, thereby circumventing Code Section 53094, and park Norm Reeves cars in the main parking lot at the College.

HMG-CN contacted Norwlak Mayor Luigi Vernola who said, “if they park Norm Reeves cars in the front parking lot, which is on Norwalk City property, we certainly will look at that.”

When questioned, Lopez said, “the lot would be used for ‘multiple purposes.’ We have a lot of construction going on, we would expand the Facilities Department which is adjacent to the lot and use it as a student and staff parking lot. With the resurfacing of our current parking lots, we have to close them and the space could be used for temporary parking.”

HMG-CN contacted Cerritos College President Jose Fierro who agreed to a conference call, joined by Miya Walker, Director, College Relations, Public Affairs & Governmental Relations, to get clarification.

“We will not be parking Norm Reeves cars in other college lots, the permanent lot, once completely surfaced, will not be used for students and teachers. There was an initial miscommunication in the original meeting. We are working with the city to obtain a permit to allow Norm Reeves to use the parking lot.”

Cerritos Councilman Frank Yokoyama told HMG-CN, “when I heard about this I met with City Manager Art Gallucci on Saturday (Aug. 12) to discuss the problem, my main concern is for the Cerritos residents who live in the area and how they will be affected. I heard that Mayor Grace Hu and Mayor pro tem Mark Pulido have also voiced their concerns with Gallucci too, they are equally as concerned.”

Lopez conveyed that Cerritos College would be cooperative with the City and willing to listen to residents’ concerns. After a meeting between the City and the college, Cerritos College sent a letter to Gallucci describing its ideas for the lot. The college ensured that all new lighting would be the same color as the existing lights on that street and that some type of dust mitigation would be implemented. Cerritos College also offered to trim the surrounding trees and make sidewalk repairs, cleaning up the lot’s appearance.

Lopez confirmed that Cerritos College is working on a temporary use permit application to submit in time for the next city council meeting. Residents can attend the September 18 meeting to hear the more detailed plans for the lot and make comments.

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