The Torrance Amateur Radio Association
An Historical Overview
by Chuck Lobb, KN6H
TARA was formed by four local hams in February, 1986. The motivation was to present a case for ham radio to the Torrance City Council after a suppressive antenna ordinance had been crafted by the City Attorney. The ordinance was felt necessary to provide guidelines for a Hollywood Riviera resident who requested a permit to install a 10-meter (30 foot), parabolic satellite dish on his property. Unfortunately, the ordinance as written did not exempt ham antennas or any other type of antenna nor did it consider FCC preemptive regulations. If passed, it literally would have shut down ham radio in Torrance.
Recognizing this impact, Mayor Katy Geissert asked the ordinance be tabled until hams had been contacted. Her husband Bill and daughter Ann were both licensed hams.
The small TARA team spent the next month printing and distributing flyers and making telephone calls across the County.
On Tuesday March 17, 1986, 360 hams filled the City Council chamber, overflowing into the glass-walled hallways on both sides. It was St Patrick’s Day and all were identified by a green “Amateur Radio Operator” badge.
Five senior hams from the City and the Head of the County Disaster Communication Service made short presentations from the podium, outlining the benefits to the community of ham radio. There were no opposing speakers. The ordinance was withdrawn by the City Attorney with no further action taken.
Two years later, in the spring of 1988, Emergency Services Coordinator Teresé Condon contacted Mayor Geissert for suggestions on organizing Torrance hams for emergency communications purposes. The Mayor suggested she contact Chuck Lobb.
That was the beginning of TARA as it exists today. A short Memorandum of Understanding was prepared outlining what TARA was prepared to offer and what support was expected from the City in return. The MOU was reviewed by the City Attorney who informed Chuck the City does not do MOUs (with one exception — the steam train group in Wilson Park). It was suggested TARA find a City department to attach itself to; the Police Department was specifically named.
And so began the relationship of TARA with the Torrance Police Department. TARA hams constructed a small amateur radio base station on the corner of an office desk using equipment donated by its members. There were no identification cards or badges and TARA members were not allowed in the TPD without an escort. It was about four years before building access was granted.
Chuck was appointed a Commissioner on the Disaster Council and served six years as Member and Chairman. The Council was very active with all four members working within the City and with other Commissions to improve disaster preparedness. Outside speakers were frequently brought in such as Jack Popejoy of radio station KFWB and Val Zavala of television station KCET, both strong proponents of earthquake preparedness.
The TPD ham station obtained FCC callsign W6TPD and County DCS callsign K6CPT-17G as it expanded and improved its capabilities at no cost to the City. It was activated during the Loma Prieta, Whittier Narrows and Northridge earthquakes as well as the reading of the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson verdicts.
TARA members constructed and installed antennas on all Area Disaster Centers and provided consultation services as the TUSD installed ham antennas on all TUSD campuses plus Bishop Montgomery High School.
TARA supported the development of DCS Station 17 in the Lomita Sheriff Station, the primary County contact for support should the resources of the City be overwhelmed.
TARA hams began a program of developing ham capability in Torrance industries and businesses including twice-weekly evening and noontime on-the-air nets. A total of 18 private companies organized their own ham-employees with several constructing their own ham stations. Honda and Toyota both sponsored after-hours ham licensing classes for their employees. Both also contracted for the design and installation of ham radio stations to provide local, national and world-wide communications in a large-scale disaster.
In May 2007, TARA members who were also DCS members deployed to Avalon to provide communications for County Fire and Sheriff Units during the Catalina Island fires. Additional local DCS activations have included the Palos Verdes fires and precautionary residential evacuations.
Today, TARA includes 107 active, licensed members, honing their radio skills by supporting City and airport events, athletic events plus Monday evening on-the-air voice and television networks on five amateur and one commercial band.
TARA continues to grow as a vital, trained, ready- to-go resource for the City of Torrance, its businesses, its industries and its residents. All four of the original founders remain in the area, three in Torrance, and all are active TARA members to this day.