The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Uncertain future for El Camino Plaza

Part of the El Camino Plaza as seen on Wednesday, Oct. 18. According to Christopher Mata, the plaza’s property manager, Ramona’s Mexican Food restaurant moved out of the plaza once their lease expired and before the building was shut down. (Ma. Gisela Ordenes | The Union)

The city of Torrance has declared the building housing the El Camino Plaza business center unsafe, forcing all stores and restaurants to close or move out, leaving many people without jobs.

The sudden building closure came after excessive rainfall this year damaged the plaza to the point many business owners had to shut down and lay off employees.

One of the business owners affected is Naz Pirshirazi who opened the Persian restaurant Chicken Chick in 2015 when she was still a student at El Camino College.

“I had to let go of 16 employees, our insurance is not covering the damage done and I am not getting any clear answers from anyone,” Pirshirazi said.

Pirshirazi describes the closure of the Chicken Chick restaurant as a devastating blow because of all the effort she put into opening it.

“Our restaurant was the most damaged by all the water damage from the rain because the building is at a tilt and our restaurant had so much flooding,” Pirshirazi said.

Despite opening a second restaurant in 2019 named Toranj located in Westwood Village, the damage and fallout of the El Camino Plaza is still an ongoing problem for Pirshirazi.

Another business forced to close was the Salvadoran restaurant Pupusa Town.

Some of the laid-off employees, such as Oscar Hernandez, have now had to relocate to their alternative location in Wilmington.

“I had been working at Pupusa Town since 2021, even through all the rain we got, until this September when we got closed,” Hernandez said.

Former Pupusa Town employee Oscar Hernandez now working at a different restaurant in Wilmington. date taken Nov. 4
Former Pupusa Town employee Oscar Hernandez at work in a different restaurant location in Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. The Pupusa Town located in the El Camino Plaza was forced to close. (Joseph Ramirez | The Union)

Christopher Mata, who works for Alamitos Associates, is the property manager of El Camino Plaza located on the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Redondo Beach Boulevard. A remodel of the building began in 2021.

The remodel was still taking place as Southern California experienced record rainfall in August from Tropical Storm Hilary. The excessive rainfall caused many roof leaks, damage and flooding in the plaza.

Many roads and businesses across Los Angeles and Southern California were flooded and forced to close due to the rainfall caused by the storm.

“The city of Torrance inspectors ended up red-flagging the entire building and made everyone shut down,” Mata said.

Felipe Segovia is the Torrance building regulations administrator overseeing the situation.

“It is the property owner’s decision of what happens with the building and we just follow up that it complies with the city building code requirements,” Segovia said.

construction equipment left behind from the remodeling of the plaza. date taken Nov. 11
Construction equipment left behind from the remodeling project of the El Camino Plaza on Saturday, Nov. 11. Christopher Mata, El Camino Plaza property manager, said he is still determined to finish the remodeling and re-open the plaza. (Joseph Ramirez | The Union)

Even though Torrance officials had the entire building closed in September, an unlicensed marijuana dispensary has continued to operate in the building.

The Union reported on the Torrance Green Room dispensary being raided in June by the Torrance Police Department and California Cannabis Control after they obtained a search warrant.

“There is an open eviction taking place against the marijuana sellers and they have indicated they will leave peacefully,” Mata said.

Mata last communicated with the marijuana sellers in the last week of October.

Other problems have been happening since the closure of the plaza including vandalism, theft and unhoused people sleeping in the building.

“When I have been coming to check on my unit it has been vandalized and items have been stolen by people and I know people have been sleeping inside my closed restaurant, it is horrible,” Pirshirazi said.

broken window of one a closed store at plaza shopping center. date taken Nov. 11
Broken windows of a closed store at the El Camino Plaza business center on Saturday, Nov. 11. According to Chicken Chick owner Naz Pirshirazi, her unit at the plaza has been vandalized, had items stolen and occupied by unhoused people. (Joseph Ramirez | The Union)

Despite all the damage and closures, Mata is still determined to get the plaza remodeled and open again for business.

There is uncertainty about which businesses would return if the plaza were to re-open. One restaurant not returning is Ramona’s Mexican Food, which had been a long-time staple at the plaza for decades.

“Ramona’s Mexican Food had their lease expired last year and they moved out of the plaza before the building got shut down,” Mata said.

Pirshirazi does not believe they will get their business back at the plaza and has lost trust in the property managers.

“I do not trust Mata and the property managers because they have been giving us lame promises that don’t happen, I don’t see the building ever re-opening,” Pirshirazi said.

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