The Redondo Beach City Council officially voted this week to proceed with a lawsuit against Torrance and Simon Property Group, owner of Del Amo Fashion Center, for what city officials call Torrance’s failure to comply with environmental standards over plans to expand the mall.
The lawsuit was officially filed on Monday, but the Redondo Beach City Council voted unanimously in a closed session on Tuesday night to go ahead with the lawsuit, according to Councilman Matt Kilroy.
The lawsuit states, in part, that the “respondents abused their discretion under CEQA by improperly determining that the Minor Modification Permit would not result in new significant impacts or substantially increase the severity of previously-identified impacts.” Torrance approved the "minor modification permit" on Oct. 31.
According to the lawsuit, Simon Property Group plans to build a new two-story retail store, a new 1,800-space, as well as a three- to four-story parking structure. The group will demolish an existing medical office building to convert it into a parking lot, among other changes to the mall.
“Adding a two-story, major anchor store is not a minor change,” said Redondo Beach Councilman Pat Aust, who added that there have been no public hearings held on the construction project.
Seattle-based Nordstrom also announced this week that it would be leaving South Bay Galleria to become the new anchor store at Del Amo Fashion Square in 2015.
"We feel fortunate that we've been able to serve South Bay for nearly 30 years and are excited about this chance to bring a better store to our loyal customers here," said Erik Nordstrom, president of stores for Nordstrom Inc. in a statement released on Monday. "While we're grateful for the business we've been able to do at South Bay Galleria over the years, we feel relocating gives us our best chance to deliver a more compelling shopping experience.
"We look forward to working with Simon and being part of this terrific redevelopment at Del Amo so that we can continue taking care of our South Bay area customers for many years to come."
Nevertheless, Redondo Beach councilmen said the fact Nordstrom is leaving the Galleria was not the impetus for the lawsuit.
“It was coincidental that we found out that Nordstrom was the store that is moving in there,” said Aust.
Kilroy echoed these concerns.
“This issue is separate,” Kilroy said; however, he acknowledged the fact that Nordstrom is leaving the mall would be a loss to the community.
“Anytime you lose a major business, it has an impact on jobs and tax revenue,” Kilroy said.
For its part, the Galleria is sorry to see Nordstrom go. Mickey Marraffino, director of marketing for Forest City Enterprises Inc., which owns the mall, said the news came as a blow.
“We’re very disappointed, but we also know that that opens up other opportunities for us,” Marraffino said. “This is a great market, so we have lots of opportunities.”
The environmental requirements of the construction project at Del Amo Fashion Square remain the primary concern, Redondo Beach councilmen said.
“Both Torrance and Redondo have responsibilities to abide by our respective and state laws,” Councilman Steve Diels, whose District 4 includes the Galleria, said via email. “However, I believe CEQA should not be abused.”
Kilroy said the bottom line is that Torrance must follow the same environmental standards that other cities do.
“Ultimately, we want them to follow the law is really what it comes down to,” Kilroy said. “We believe it’s important all cities play by the same rules. We don’t believe the city of Torrance is.”
Jeffery Gibson, Torrance's community development director who is specifically named in the lawsuit, referred all calls to Torrance's city attorney's office. Patrick Sullivan, Torrance's assistant city attorney, said the city has not yet been officially served with the lawsuit but declined to comment any further.
The lawsuit aims to get a "temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction" to stop the project until it is brought into compliance with environmental requirements.