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MANASSERO FARMS: CERRITOS COLLEGE TO COMPLY WITH CITY’S DEMANDS, BOARD OF TRUSTEES PASSES RESOLUTION

By Brian Hews

Cerritos College issued a press release Thursday in regards to the former Manassero Farms strawberry field parking lot controversy indicating that the College Board of Trustees passed a resolution “committed to upholding several proposed improvements by the City of Cerritos to the corner lot located at 166 and Studebaker.”

A few weeks ago Cerritos was alerted that the College was transforming the field and then learned that the College had leased the land to Norm Reeves Cerritos for overflow parking.

The lease was deemed as “non-educational use” mandating that the College would need to apply for a Temporary Use Permit with Cerritos.

Cerritos issued a stop order, while including suggestions on how the field should look pertaining to landscaping and lighting and overall operations, vis-à-vis unloading and parking of cars.

The City also indicated that a TUP would need to be approved by the Cerritos City Council.

The College ceased construction, held a community forum August 23 where several angry residents expressed their views, and passed the resolution at their Sept. 6 meeting.

The College will now wait until the September 18 Cerritos City Council meeting for Council to approve the TUP calming any fears that the College would try and circumvent the non-educational use law and begin parking cars on the lot.

“Based on the initial feedback and direction from the city of Cerritos, and concerns the district learned from residents during its August 23 community forum, the Board of Trustees approved the resolution to address all concerns.”

In regards to loading and unloading of cars the resolution stated, “take place at the dealer site and not at the District. Vehicles will not be transported via a delivery truck. Cars will be driven individually through the College’s parking Lot 10 as demands for daily inventory arise. Hours of operations will be Monday – Sunday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.

The City had demanded that only cars sold at the Cerritos Auto Square will be allowed to park on the lot.

In addition the City had asked that the lot be used only “during daytime business hours.”

In regards to dust mitigation the resolution stated, “we propose to use an environmentally friendly type of decomposed granite to reduce dust.”

The City had asked for asphalt or similar material subject to the City’s approval.

In regards to landscaping, the College complied with Cerritos stating, “the District will install and maintain yellow trumpet vines, including irrigation along the fence line of 166th Street. These yellow trumpet vines will be maintained on a monthly basis.”

“The District will install durable, green vinyl fabric (privacy screens) to the fences providing added security to the lot. The vinyl fence fabric will also provide a substantial amount of wind blockage, which will assist in limiting any dust to adjacent properties. “

Subject to City approval, the District proposed to remove all existing trees on the District side of 166th Street and replace them with ornamental pear trees.

The District will also remove, repair, and replace damaged sidewalk along 166th Street.

One of the “sore spots” with residents was the new lighting for the lot.

The District indicated it would install and maintain 17 light fixtures located on the lot, matching the light poles in Parking Lot C-10.

Cerritos asked for vertical shields on all lights to direct light downward, a system-wide dimmer switch, a plan showing how much light would be generated, and a “light reading” after the lights are installed to ensure the new lighting is within acceptable levels.

The District stated, “based on a third-party report from the District’s current Facilities Master Plan (2011), the District does not expect its lighting fixtures to negatively impact residents. The District’s plan for lighting produces less illumination or brightness than normal street lights.”

In the release, Dr. Shin Liu, clerk, Board of Trustees who represents Area 5, covering the cities of Cerritos, Artesia, Norwalk and portions of Lakewood and Santa Fe Springs stated,  “It is important to us that the community knows that we heard their concerns about the changes to the lot and we want to remain good neighbors by addressing those issues that the community raised. While our plans for the lot are not final, they are intended to be temporary and we are committed to working with residents and the City to mitigate as many of their concerns as possible. ”

“It was an important opportunity to hear from our community members as it relates to public safety in- and –around the College and the changes to the Lot, ” said James Cody Birkey, member of the Board of Trustees who represents Area 3, including portions of Cerritos, Bellflower, Downey, Norwalk and portions of South Gate. “It is critical for us to always be mindful of the neighborhood experience in current and future projects, and what it means to our residents to live next to Cerritos College. We hope these strategies will address the concerns raised by residents, and actually create a win-win for the College and the community because of the input. ”

When contacted by HMG-CN, Cerritos issued a statement saying, “the City of Cerritos encourages Cerritos residents to attend the September 18th City Council meeting so that they may voice their opinions about Cerritos College’s proposal to use the former strawberry field for the temporary storage of vehicles.  The City is looking forward to presenting the facts about the case and to the public discourse that will provide the Cerritos City Council with the information necessary to make an informed decision.”

Mr. Felipe Lopez, Vice President of Business Services/Assistant Superintendent for the college gave an in-depth interview to HMG-CN reporter Tammye McDuff Thursday afternoon.

HMG: What happens if the TUP is declined?

Felipe Lopez: Everything is contingent on the approval of the temporary use permit. If the City ultimately does not approve it on September 18th, our plan would be to gather as much information as to why it was not approved and based on that feedback, we would adjust our plan and resubmit another application based on the feedback we received and go from there.  We would still try to move the project forward with an amended plan and the additional application to the best we can to meet whatever recommendations the city has for us.

HMG: How far are you willing to go to meet those recommendations?

FL: That’s a good question and our board had the same question. Obviously if the City came back with suggestions that raised the cost factor [this does play a role in it] ultimately what we do to the lot does have a cost factor. If it is not a reasonable cost factor, then ultimately we would recommend not moving forward with the initial plan. If it doesn’t make good business sense and the cost a reasonable one, our board would consider not moving forward. Any modifications have to go back to the board for approval once the TUP is provided. If the city requests additional improvements beyond what we initially submitted, then we have to go back to the Board for final approval and we might have to make that determination whether to move forward or not.

HMG: Do you have a plan B?

FL: Again our plan B would try to address any issues the best that we can, but again we would have to re-evaluate it, continue to work with the City and meet the standards they give us. We are hopeful; we have been working with the City the last few weeks on the application and getting them as much documentations as possible.  We are hopeful that we will have a positive result come Sept. 18th.  If not we will have to regroup and see what is in reason. We could ultimately submit a TUP with an amendment plan and we will go from there,

HMG: The city said you can only park during daytime business hours and the resolution says that you are going to park Monday to Sunday 7:00am to 10:00 pm. Is this a conflict?

FL: I am not sure where that information is coming from, my understanding is the City is aware it is a temporary lot, that cars would be parked there continuously, but the time is – we actually amended the agreement to limit the activity between the hours of 7:00 am – 10:00 pm. That might be where this information is coming from. But parking there during certain hours is to get access to the lot.

HMG: You have stateD that you will be meeting quarterly with the residents, to hear and resolve any issues, is that correct?

FL: Yes. That is our part of our proposed plan, if the TUP is approved, we would be proposing a quarterly forum where we will invite the community back in to give us feedback and voice any concerns. From that feedback we could make adjustments to their concerns.

HMG: Is that a wise thing to do to see how happy or unhappy residents are?

FL: Again our goal is – they are our neighbors – we want to be a good neighbor and we want to engage with them. That is our plan.

HMG: Am I to understand you correctly in you stating that you don’t have an alternative plan if the TUP is not approved? And that you will make amendments that are financially feasible and then move forward from there.

FL: That is correct.

HMG: Is there anything else you would like to add to this?

FL: Nope. This is our main goal to continue to work with the City and our neighbors to resolve the issues.

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