TORRANCE — Torrance resident and businessman Jon Kaji is one of 12 candidates seeking to fill an opening on the Torrance City Council.
The vacancy was created when Councilmember George Chen was elected to a new four-year term in Council District 2 (West Torrance) and vacated his at-large seat. With two years remaining, the City Council will appoint a new councilmember at its May 12 meeting.
In March, in the inaugural municipal district elections, Chen ran against fellow Councilmember Geoff Rizzo and won the District 2 seat. An election for the at-large seat will be held in 2022.
The city is facing a projected $45 million in revenue losses for the 2019-2020 fiscal years, a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“My career has been centered on economic recovery through smart growth,” stated Kaji. “For Torrance to recover rapidly after the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be vital for the city to collaboratively and aggressively pursue new companies. New investment will create jobs and attract more consumers to the city. I have the time, experience and willingness to help.”
Kaji’s real estate company, Kaji & Associates, has been in Torrance since 1990. His family ties to Torrance reach back much further.
“My maternal grandfather, Dr. Kikuwo Tashiro, founder of the Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles, moved to Gardena in the 1920s,” Kaji said. “He made house calls to Japanese families throughout the South Bay up until the outbreak of World War II.”
Kaji’s father, Bruce, was the first accountant for Toyota Motor Sales in the 1950s. Toyota Motor Sales, a longtime corporate citizen of Torrance, announced its move to Texas in 2014.
In the 1990s, Kaji served as the director of trade and investment for the State of California Office of Trade and Investment in Tokyo, generating more than $1.9 billion in new investments and trade deals.
Kaji served as special advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in efforts to keep the Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Fremont (Alameda County) operational. The facility is now the manufacturing center for Tesla Inc.
In 2012, Kaji was appointed by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to serve as a member of the Oversight Agency for the former City of Carson Redevelopment Agency, overseeing the dissolution of more than $500 million is assets. He completed his term in 2018.
Kaji served as the National JACL’s secretary-treasurer for four years and has also been president of the Gardena Valley JACL, president of the Gardena-Carson Family YMCA, and a member of the Japanese American National Museum’s Board of Governors.
The other candidates are:
• Former Councilmember Heidi Ashcraft, who was a trustee with the Torrance Unified School District and was appointed in 2013 to replace Cliff Numark on the City Council. She was elected the following year but did not seek a second term in 2018.
• David Caceres, assistant city attorney in Simi Valley and former Torrance deputy city attorney.
• Andrew DeBlock, a member of Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s staff. In the District 6 race, DeBlock lost to incumbent Councilmember Mike Griffiths.
ª Charles Deemer, a member of the Torrance Environmental Quality Commission.
• Edmund Keenan
• Glenn R. Marshall, chairman of the Torrance Planning Commission.
• Ruben Molina, a laboratory manager for a plastics company.
• Mario Obejas, a member of the Torrance Traffic Commission who sought a City Council appointment in 2014.
• Asam Sheikh, a member of the Torrance Planning Commission who ran for the City Council in 2014.
• Mark Stephenson, a frequent speaker at City Council meetings.
• Former Councilmember Bill Sutherland, who served from 2006 to 2014. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor.