TORRANCE — Ray Uchima, a member of the Torrance Parks and Recreation Commission, is seeking appointment to the Torrance City Council.
Whoever is appointed will serve the last two years of Pat Furey’s council term, now that he has been elected mayor.
The new mayor and four new councilmembers were sworn in on July 15, and the council voted 6-0 to fill the vacancy by appointment. Applications were due by Aug. 4, and a decision must be reached by Aug. 14; otherwise, a special election must be held.
A graduate of Los Angeles City College and a licensed industrial real estate broker, Uchima started in the commercial real estate brokerage business in 1975. In 1982, he established an asset and property management company, Uchima Corporation, in Torrance to manage his family’s apartment investment portfolio. He has leased or sold corporate properties in Torrance that have created many jobs. In 2013, he retired from active brokerage work after 38 years.
For the past 19 years, he has been appointed to city commissions by Mayors Katy Geissert, Dee Hardison, Dan Walker, and Frank Scotto. Working with the public, his fellow commissioners, city staff, and the business community, Uchima said he is known for “resolving tough issues that have faced our community.”
As a member of the Planning Commission from 2002 to 2013, including two terms as chairman, Uchima worked on the General Plan, the principal policy document for future development in the city. From 2002 to 2007, he said, Torrance “was fast becoming a very unbalanced city.”
“I made a number of recommendations that were incorporated into the current plan,” Uchima said. “They include setting guidelines for neighborhood development and preserving open space. In the mid-2000s, I opposed rampant residential development especially in industrial and commercial zoned locations. I supported projects that were compatible with the General Plan and the surrounding neighborhoods. I opposed developments that generated excessive traffic and cut-through travel in residential neighborhoods.”
Uchima also supported the installation of a traffic signal in front of the Costco store on Skypark Drive, which he said “has reduced congestion and serious accidents, especially during the business holiday shopping season,” and has enforced a hillside overlay ordinance preventing ocean and city views from being blocked.
During his seven years (1995-2002) on the Environmental Commission, “as the chairman, I was instrumental in establishing an Animal Control Department for Torrance,” he said. “I believe this is an important city service that should be locally controlled. Prior to 2004, Torrance contracted with the County of Los Angeles, Carson shelter. During that time, the majority of lost pets were euthanized. Today, Torrance Animal Control is based at nearby Wilson Park and provides excellent service to our residents. Most pets are now found and returned to their owners, all for less than what the County of Los Angeles would have charged us.”
Uchima has served on the Parks and Recreation Commission since February 2013.
As a member of the Torrance Cultural Arts Foundation Board since 2010, he has helped raise funds for the city’s music, theatrical, and educational programs. The Torrance Cultural Arts Center includes the James Armstrong Theater, Toyota Meeting Hall, and the Nakano Theater.
He is also a member of the Walteria Businessmen’s Club, Riviera Homeowners Association, Torrance Sister City Association, and Torrance Rose Float Association.
Outlining his goals if appointed to the council, Uchima said, “I will work to ensure Torrance remains a safe city. Public safety is very important to my family and me … Having a good reputation in this area encourages people to want to live, work, and shop in Torrance …
“I will exercise fiscal responsibility by controlling spending and find ways to increase revenues through business development. I will work for increased cooperation between the city and the Torrance Unified School District. The excellence of our schools needs to be protected for our kids’ education and for our property values … Those locally educated students will eventually become the future professionals, business and governmental leaders, and workers for our society.”
Uchima and his wife, Estela, a registered nurse at Providence Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, have resided in Torrance for 35 years. Their daughter, Stephanie, attended school in Torrance and is now a homeowner there.
“My record shows a combination of business experience along with a long-term commitment to the City of Torrance,” Uchima said. “Because of our current state and national economic difficulties, our city will continue to be faced with many budget challenges. I believe that I have the skills and experience to confront and help solve these problems.”
Referring to Toyota’s recent decision to move from Torrance to Texas, Uchima said that as an American of Japanese ancestry who understands both cultures, he will work diligently with major Japanese employers to locate, remain, and expand their operation in Torrance.
In addition, Uchima said he will try to attract new businesses, targeting the high-tech and solar/green energy industries, to make Torrance a “renewable energy center for the nation.”
Promising not to raise taxes or lay off vital city employees, Uchima pledged to encourage qualified citizens to serve on city commissions and focus on increasing city revenues via business development.