David Mendez

Redondo Beach mayor plans power plant land summit

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A view from the AES power plant to the south east. File photo.

by David Mendez

The last few months have been busy for Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, as a series of land-use conferences have led him to hold a local conference of his own that centers on the future of Redondo’s century-old power plant.

Next Thursday, Brand will host the Mayor’s Summit on Repurposing the Redondo Beach Power Plant and Edison Right-of-Way Land. The summit, he said, is the first in a possible series of meetings to educate the community on potential uses for both the power plant property and Southern California Edison’s land.

“What’s different about this approach is that Redondo, and most cities, have a history of sitting around and waiting for a developer to bring them a plan, and decide whether they like it or not,” Brand said. “This is a more proactive approach for the community to get involved upfront and understand the process and the options going into redevelopment and repurposing.”

Brand will be part of a panel discussion featuring land use and design experts including Larry Kosmont, the City of Redondo Beach’s real estate consultant, and Richard Wilson, a Chicago-based architect.

Brand met Wilson at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design West conference, in Alaska, earlier this month. Brand was among a small group of mayors invited to discuss planning and design challenges in their cities.

His presentation detailing the city’s waterfront and the AES power plant drew Wilson’s attention, leading the architect to come to Redondo strictly for the discussion. Wilson has worked on similar large-scale redevelopments in Chicago, including Millennium Park, which was built atop railroad tracks on the northeastern corner of existing Grant Park. The area has since generated “literal billions of dollars in tax and economic development returns,” Wilson said.

“I’m welcoming public discussion, sister city to sister city, to talk about what we’ve all accomplished,” Wilson said. “To talk about our processes and mistakes we’ve made along the way, and to encourage people to build discussion about what’s possible.”

Redondo has had a power plant at that waterfront site for more than 100 years. In 2020 the plant is slated to close down in accordance with state regulations, leading AES to market the plant.

The city has attempted to take part in redeveloping the land twice in the last 20 years; first, with 2002’s Heart of the City project, then in 2015’s Harbor Village plan. Both fell after facing significant resident pushback. The development wars eventually led to a City Charter amendment requiring a public vote on major zoning changes.

As AES announced its sale plans, the city became involved again, winning county support to create an overlay tax district in the area generating money to improve the land for public use. A buyer, however, has not yet been announced.

“I’m fascinated that the community actually has a vote, that they have an active role to play in setting the future of this site,” Wilson said. “That’s very different from almost any place that you work on in America.”

Brand has cautioned that this is not intended to be a divisive debate space, but an educational seminar. He also acknowledges that, while the aim is to build a public park that recaptures the area’s natural wetland heritage, development is likely to be included, and the city will have to work with the land’s new property owner.

“In all likelihood, it’s going to be some sort of public-private partnership,” Brand said. “But it’s going to be a park with some development in it, not a development plan with some park.”

The Mayor’s Summit on Repurposing the Redondo Beach Power Plant and Edison Right-of-Way Land is on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m., at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd.

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