Citing student safety and traffic concerns, a Torrance councilwoman has challenged a preschool operator’s plan to build a facility for 180 kids on busy Hawthorne Boulevard.
Susan Rhilinger appealed a 4-2 ruling from the city’s planning Commission, which on June 6 approved the new two-story preschool building. the City Council will hear the appeal at its Tuesday meeting.
“My concern is primarily due to safety issues regarding the large number of preschool children being located in a school setting on Hawthorne Boulevard,” she said. “They’re rambunctious and they escape really easily.”
In addition, Rhilinger said, she has questions about traffic backing up onto Hawthorne Boulevard as parents drop off their children during the rush hour.
The 10,000-square-foot preschool would be developed on the former site of Florence Fabrics at 23104 Hawthorne Blvd., just north of the intersection with Lomita Boulevard. the fabric store closed seven years ago and the building that housed it will be demolished.
A bus stop nearby could further impede traffic, Rhilinger said.
Nagy Bakhoum of Torrance-based Obelisk Architects told the planning panel that a condition of the preschool’s operation is that motorists are not permitted to back up onto the road as children are dropped off in the morning.
Preschool owner Mary Mellone told the commission she operates another school in a commercial area in Irvine with the same circulation pattern, and that center has not caused a traffic problem. the Torrance school will have a subterranean parking garage.
Reached Friday, Mellone declined to say why she wanted to build a Montessori preschool at the busy site in Torrance.
“Everybody has their right to voice an opinion,” she said. “It’s a very nice building and Montessori is a very nice method of teaching children.”
Preschools are allowed in the area, even though the city would presumably favor retailers. City officials have said previously that many chain stores have one of their most profitable locations on Hawthorne.
Neighboring property owners have differing opinions of the effect of a preschool on retail outlets.
Attorney William Hess, whose mother owns the neighboring property that once housed the Surprise Store, opposes the project.
“Why are you putting a school in that kind of commercial environment?” he said, adding that parents of preschoolers were likely to start using the adjacent lot his mother owns.
However, another nearby property owner expressed hope at the commission meeting that the school could help bring in customers for his tenant, Thomasville Furniture.
The city has made filling empty storefronts along Hawthorne a priority. Sales tax revenues provide about 23 percent of the city’s operating budget, although presumably a school would not generate taxes.
Hawthorne Boulevard is home to some schools, including National University, which opened an online information center at Del Amo Fashion Center. Another preschool is under construction at Hawthorne and 238 th Street, although that school has access from 238 th.
Rhilinger said she also has concerns about the school’s playground area and its proximity to residences to the rear.
The building owner is required to hire a consultant to recommend noise-reducing measures.
The school may operate as late as 11 p.m. to accommodate parents who work at nearby Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
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Want to go?
What: the Torrance City Council will meet to discuss a proposed preschool on Hawthorne Boulevard
Where: Torrance City Hall, 3031 Torrance Blvd.