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Local Business accuses Hawaiian Gardens of ‘Unfair Targeting’

By Kristin Grafft

Rene Rodas, a Hawaiian Gardens business owner, attended the January 14 Hawaiian Gardens city council meeting with complaints of “harassment” and “targeting” by the city.

During the meeting Rodas claimed that one of his businesses, a used car dealership called KH Auto Sales, was treated unfairly by the city in regard to enforcement activity of “temporary signage.”

Rodas complained that he had return to the city council meeting yet again because he felt nothing was being done about the fact that he was unfairly targeted by the city code enforcement. The business owner claimed that this mistreatment is what caused him to shut down his business and move to Whittier.

Rodas has attended numerous city council meetings in the past to speak on the same issue. At the December 10 meeting, Rodas complained about a letter he received from the city code enforcement division indicating that the banner outside of his businesses was in violation of the Hawaiian Garedens Municipal code, because “banners could not be used indefinitely in lieu of a permanent sign.”

Rodas explained that the sign being required of him would cost somewhere between $1,500 and $5,000, instead of his $40 banner. Rodas indicated that other local businesses were not being forced to comply with this same code.

Rodas said that his banner does not adversely affect anything and that he pays a lot of taxes, but the city doesn’t care, so he “moved to another city where he won’t be bothered.”

Mr. Rodas’ daughter, Gabriela Rodas, added that she understands her fathers concerns, and that while in Hawaiian Gardens, “city employees and sheriff’s officers would point at them.”

City Community Development Director Joe Colombo disputed the Rodas’ comments saying that Whittier actually has a lot more codes, 45 pages versus only 9 in Hawaiian Gardens. Colombo also said that he was told that the Rodas’ family moved for personal reasons, ones that he did not feel comfortable sharing with everyone.

Many of the council members, however, seemed to agree with Rodas that the city should be working more with local businesses.

Mayor Reynaldo Rodriguez commented that the reason for so many other signs in the city being “missing” is because the businesses are no longer there. Rodriguez continued saying that there are also lots of “mom and pop” stores in Hawaiian Gardens, which makes code enforcement difficult.

Councilman Barry Bruce, an advocate of fair but more thorough code enforcement, suggested an incentives program to motivate the businesses to follow the codes.

The council concluded that they need to hold a separate meeting to discuss codes, code enforcement, incentives, and business growth strategies and maintenance issues. No specific date was set.

The next city council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on January 28 at the City of Hawaiian Gardens City Hall.