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CERRITOS COLLEGE ADMITS TO ADDITIONAL $90,000 PARKING CONTRACT WITH PENSKE GROUP

Several Penske Automotive Group cars seen parked on Lot 10 at Cerritos College. During talks with the city of Cerritos about the Norm Reeves deal, the College was also talking to Penske. The college did not disclose that additional cars that will be parked on the former Manassero field. Photo by Brian Hews.

Contract was negotiated during talks with Norm Reeves

By Brian Hews

Having open parking spaces is rapidly evolving into a huge revenue stream for Cerritos College that might have some asking when it will end.

Hews Media Group-Community News has exclusively learned that, in addition to the $426,000 annual deal Cerritos College cut with Norm Reeves, the college has also signed a deal with the Penske Automotive Group.

According to Miya Walker, Director, College Relations, Public Affairs & Governmental Relations for the College, the contract is worth $90,000 per year and was negotiated around the same time as Norm Reeves.

HM-CN discovered the deal after seeing Penske cars parked in Lot 10, located on 166th, and then inquired about the cars.

Questions and allegations will once again surround the secretive, and some say incompetent, way Cerritos College has handled the transition of the area from strawberry fields to overflow parking for Cerritos Auto Square dealers.

The revelation comes after weeks of controversy that first saw Cerritos residents complain about the College’s unannounced construction on the former Manassero Strawberry fields.

Construction began and residents were irate; Cerritos City officials indicated they were unaware of the construction at the time.

Community Development Director Torrey Contreras told HMG-CN 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 said.

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.

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. ”

Sensing pushback, and a breaking-up of their parking plan, the College scheduled a town-hall type meeting on Aug. 23 to answer residents concerns.

It was during the meeting that College President Dr. Jose Fierro stated he met with Gallucci and Contreras and talked about the lot.

The College said there was a May 9 meeting; present was Gallucci, Contreras, Felipe Lopez, and Dr. Jose Fierro.

Fierro said, “at no time during this meeting or the meeting before did the city say that the college needed a temporary use permit. ”

The information about Fierro’s presentation was relayed to Cerritos officials, who issued a scathing statement blasting Fierro.

“Dr. Fierro’s presentation contained several inaccurate statements intended to deflect public opposition from the College to the City of Cerritos by suggesting that the City was aware of the College’s plans to convert the former strawberry patch to an automobile storage facility. ”

“Further, Dr. Fierro’s presentation insinuated that the City was complicit with the proposed automobile storage facility use and related improvements that have already occurred on the former strawberry field without prior City knowledge and/or approval. ”

The City proceeded to refute much of Fierro’s statements in the presentation.

In regards to the May 9 meeting, Fierro stated that “the College outlined its plan to the City without issue.”

Cerritos rebutted Fierro’s assertion stating, “City staff did meet with Dr. Fierro and Vice President Felipe Lopez on May 9, 2017. However, during said meeting, several possible development scenarios were discussed for the strawberry field, including: an Alzheimer’s facility, student housing, workforce housing, housing for US military veterans, and a hotel. City staff informed the College representatives that, regardless of the proposed use, the College would need to obtain prior City land use approval. ”

And in a complete rebuke of the College’s statement, the City stated, “The College representatives did not disclose to City staff of the proposed automobile storage facility and that the College was planning to enter into a five-year lease agreement with Norm Reeves Honda for dealership parking. ”

And now Cerritos can add that the College did not tell them about the $90,000 deal with Penske.

“At no point during the meeting did City staff imply approval for or consent to the dealership parking project. ”

The City also disputed Fierro’s statement that the City had approved parts of the project.

“During Dr. Fierro’s presentation, he repeatedly stated that “the City has approved” several features of the planned parking lot. For example, he stated that the City has approved the installation of trumpet vines and green mesh to screen the parking lot and that the City has approved a plan for light fixtures with low illumination levels. ”

The City disputed yet again stating, “The City has not approved any plans whatsoever as the item is scheduled for City Council consideration at its meeting of September 18, 2017. ”

A letter dated August 11, 2017 from Gallucci to Fierro supported that statement.

“City staff sent College representatives a letter with comments on preliminary plans that were submitted by the College on August 10. The letter clearly states that the contents are a list of comments. The first comment is that the proposed use of the subject site for automobile storage requires a temporary use permit (TUP) subject to City Council approval. ”

The two sides then agreed to a Cerritos City Council meeting to approve the TUP.

On September 18, the TUP was approved on 4-1 vote, with Councilman Solanki voting no.

It is not known whether Council would have voted the same way given the $90,000 deal with Penske.

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