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By Julia Bok

The July 27 Cerritos City Council meeting began with recognition of Chugh, LLP, as part of the city’s business recognition program. HMG-CN Editor and Publisher Brian Hews was appointed to the Economic Development Commission.

During Public Comments and Suggestions, speakers asked the city to prioritize trimming trees that block streetlights and to install security cameras to streetlights. Norma Williamson, a Neighborhood Watch captain, suggested the city install “No Exit” signs to prevent unnecessary traffic in cul-de-sacs.

The city approved Development Code Amendment 2017-5 which proposed to create an overlay zone that would expand the Cerritos Auto Square north along Studebaker Road. The amendment allows for conditionally permitted uses when the primary use will be automobile retail sales facilities or automobile dealerships providing for the sale of new vehicles, new recreational vehicles, pre-owned low mileage luxury vehicles, and accessory uses.

The additional space is seen as a potential extra parking area for cars on sale. Dave Conant owns one of the eight properties in the zone and is also a business owner in the Cerritos Auto Square. He spoke in favor of the amendment, “I look at this as no downside because nobody is being forced out of their current use of their property, if somebody wants to remain, they remain, if they want to sell it to somebody or lease their property for a higher and better use and that happens to be auto and happens to fit into the plans of the overlay then they have that choice.”

Community Development Director Torrey Contreras said, “I think the parking is secondary to the primary objective of the city and that’s to make this property available for the ability to sell vehicles and for the value generated in the form of sales tax revenue that again will help to reinvest that money back into the community and support what we do here as a city.”

The Council then approved the opening of a new Starbucks with a drive-through in Cerritos College Square.

Problems arose when Cerritos resident Mindi Sanks Williams asked the Council to appeal the Cerritos Property Preservation Commission’s decision to deny her request to remove trees next to her property. Williams stated that the pine trees required too much maintenance which also affected her health. Mayor Hu suggested that instead of removing the trees, the city’s trimmers should maintain them more often.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Pulido was supportive of Williams, “I think we need to send a statement to folks that we’re listening and that when it does impact individuals’ health and damage to property and unsightliness and in general, a lot of stress, that at least, this council member wants to say, ‘I hear you and I want to be responsive.’”

Resident Jay Gray expressed his frustration, “For years, many years, I’ve complained about the trees, sidewalks, and so on, going untouched. I blame that on your City Manager sitting here, that’s been here for almost half a century. I blame council members who have been on here for multiple terms, for doing nothing and bringing us to this point.”

He continued, “The Williams’ complained about their health. They’re the ones that are having to pick it up. That’s not being considered by all council members, it seems at this time, the cost to them, whether that’s financial cost or health cost.”

Councilman Edwards defended City Manager Art Gallucci, “I really take offense, sir, to what you said. You have no idea what this man does and what he has done for 44 years. I do, but you don’t, and for you to get up and say that, I’m offended and you should be embarrassed.”

Councilman Yokoyama pointed out that the Property Preservation Commission’s denial of Williams’s request was not unanimous. He stated, “This is not a court of law where there is going to be a precedent set where a court will have to follow what a previous court did,” and suggested that the council members vote based on the facts they heard at the meeting, not based on the decision previously made by the Commission.

Council members Edwards and Solanki voted against the motion to remove the trees, but the motion passed with votes from council members Yokoyama, Pulido, and Hu.

Editor’s note: Ms. Bok is working for HMG-CN as a summer intern.