In what amounts to bureaucratic tit for tat, Torrance officials contend their Redondo Beach counterparts broke state law in filing a lawsuit intended to stop Del Amo Fashion Center stealing Nordstrom.

The high-end retailer announced earlier this month it would abandon the South Bay Galleria in 2015 after almost 25 years for a new location a few miles south on Hawthorne Boulevard. A purpose-built anchor store for Nordstrom is supposed to become the centerpiece of an extensive and long overdue renovation of Del Amo's north end.

However, Redondo Beach filed a lawsuit in an apparent effort to delay or kill the move just hours after the announcement. The city argued Torrance failed to perform an environmental analysis of the proposed relocation it believes is required under state law.

No court date on the issue has yet been set.

Now Torrance has fired back, sending a letter to Redondo Beach this week saying the city violated the Brown Act, the state law governing public access to government meetings.

The three-page letter accuses Redondo Beach of holding a closed session at its Dec. 4 meeting to discuss "anticipated potential litigation."

Torrance officials allege the closed-door meeting should have been held instead under the auspices of "pending litigation."

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 3.

Torrance City Attorney John Fellows characterized Redondo Beach's action as one of "administrative convenience."

"It's one of the most blatant Brown Act violations I've seen in a long time and they do it on a regular basis," he said. "It's pretty blatant and it's a process Redondo has been doing since I've been city attorney in Torrance, 20 years."

Torrance is demanding Redondo Beach rescind its authorization to pursue the lawsuit.

Fellows also said the item belonged on the regular meeting agenda because "it strains credulity" to accept that when then City Council agenda for the meeting was posted Nov. 29 Redondo Beach officials were "utterly unaware" the lawsuit over Nordstrom was going to be filed shortly.

Redondo Beach officials notified Torrance Nov. 30 of their intent to file a lawsuit should the retailer formally announce its intention to leave the Galleria.

However, it's also unclear whether Redondo Beach officials approved filing the lawsuit at a previous meeting depending on whether Nordstrom followed through on its intent to leave for Del Amo.

Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael Webb did not respond to an email or cellular telephone call Friday seeking comment.

However, correcting such an error is fairly routine.

Redondo Beach is required under state law to respond to Torrance's "cure and correct" letter within 30 days.

Presumably that could mean simply reauthorizing the lawsuit using the appropriate Brown Act language.

If no response occurs, Torrance has 15 days after the initial 30-day deadline to file a lawsuit.

Fellows declined on the record to elaborate on the letter, as did Mayor Frank Scotto, citing the pending legal action.

However, it appears these are the first salvos in a potentially acrimonious public conflict between two cities determined to hang on to their lucrative share of the valuable sales tax revenues a large retailer such as Nordstrom generates.

nick.green@dailybreeze.com

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