Torrance Planning Commission: Streamlining of CUP Modifications to Continue

Last night the Torrance Planning Commission met and one of the items on the agenda was to hear a report prepared by the Community Development Department which was to discuss the current state of the craft breweries in Torrance. The report included discussion on what the current procedures are to open a brewery, what the Torrance Municipal Code says about breweries in Torrance, why so many breweries are opting to open in Torrance and what affect the influx of breweries has had on the crime rate in Torrance. In the audience I saw Laurie Porter from Smog City Brewing, Henry Nguyen from Monkish Brewing, and Joel Elliott from Strand Brewing Company.

For a little background, I ask you to recall back in August when I attended the CUP Hearing for Scholb Premium Ales. At that time, the Torrance City Attorney mentioned that there might be a way to streamline the modification process for Conditional Use Permits that would eliminate the need for a hearing every time someone wanted a simple modification of their existing Conditional Use Permit. The Planning Commission agreed that if the modification of an existing CUP was not changing the intent of the permit issued the modification hearing should not be required. What this means is that if Scholb, or Smog City or any of the other Torrance breweries want to modify their Conditional Use Permit as far as their hours of operation they could save time and expense by having the Planning Department modify their permit without having to appear before the Planning Commission.

Fast forward to November when Cosmic Ales went before the Planning Commission for their CUP hearing. No one notified me about the hearing so I was a no-show, which may have been the wrong hearing to miss as apparently there was some grumbling by neighbors of the new Cosmic Ales as well as by some of the occupants of the business park that Absolution Brewing and Scholb are located. Some of the complaints included parking, a break-in of a neighboring business and some concern about people walking across Del Amo Boulevard from Cosmic to Smog City. While Cosmic was granted their CUP there was enough ruckus raised that the Planning Commission wondered if they had gone overboard by allowing the streamlining of CUP modifications; hence the request to have the Community Development Department to prepare the report.

I have attached a PDF of the report below, but in a nutshell, breweries are allowed under Torrance law that has been in effect since the 1950’s. The thing is, while brewing was legal, having a tasting room required a Conditional Use Permit which is heard before the Planning Commission. Each tasting room permit is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

As far as why breweries were coming to Torrance, it is primarily because the CUP process is efficient and inexpensive; besides, Torrance has always welcomed new businesses to the city.

To me, one of the more interesting statistics was with regards to public safety, aka crime, since the explosion of craft breweries in Torrance. In 2015 there were eight calls for assistance to the five production brewery locations and four to the brewpub locations. To be honest, I think they reported one disorderly report.

The Community Development had Torrance Police Department assess whether or not DUIs had increased with the number of new breweries. To do this they compared their statistics from 2010 through 2012 (prior to the tasting rooms coming to Torrance) and compared it with 2013 through 2015. As it turns out, DUIs have dropped 8.5% in the last three years! That is pretty nice.

In the end it was decided that the streamlining of CUP modifications shall remain in place. If a brewery wants to add food trucks to their Conditional Use Permit they will have to appear before the Planning Commission; but for now, existing breweries will be able to modify the hours of operations for their tasting rooms by using the streamlined process without having to go through the time and expense of a CUP hearing. Cheers.

Planning Commission Information Item on Breweries in Torrance

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