Council denies Pustilnikov appeal of builder’s application

AES site majority owner Leo Pustilnikov filed applications for 2,700 housing units, an office complex, a hotel and 22 acres of greenspace. Illustration courtesy of Leo Pustilnikov

by Garth Meyer

Leo Pustilnikov’s 9300 Wilshire corporation lost its appeal Tuesday after its application to build 2,700 housing units, a hotel and commercial space at the AES site was deemed incomplete. 

The Redondo Beach city council voted 5-0 to concur with Community Services Director Brandy Forbes’ assessment of the August 2022 application.

She told the council that it lacked a list of requirements, from zoning amendment requests to proof of ownership, hard copies of drawings and even payment of fees.

The central question at Tuesday’s public hearing was whether Redondo Beach had a legitimate housing element filed with the state on July 5, or not until September 1.

If it was the later date, Pustilnikov had jurisdiction to use the California “builder’s remedy” to go ahead with his  project, according to 9300 Wilshire attorney Michael Shonafelt (Newport Beach). 

The builder’s remedy states that if a city does not have a current, 8-year housing plan certified by the state, its local zoning laws may be trumped by builders (to alleviate the California housing shortage).

Redondo Beach submitted its 2021-29 housing element (its third iteration) July 5. The state replied Sept. 1 that it was certified.

“We see it as the city had adopted it and it was in existence July 5,” said an attorney for the California Housing and Community Development Department, speaking Tuesday to Redondo’s city council.

Shonafelt maintained that the housing element was not compliant until Sept. 1. 

After public comment Tuesday – which included a group of orange-vested union carpenters advocating for prevailing wages to local crews if and when something is built – the city council questioned Shonafelt. 

Councilman Zein Obagi, Jr., asked him about how the project fit into current zoning, a subject of recurring controversy (whether park, power plant or a conditional-use combination).

“I think the zoning is confusing, to be honest,” said Shonafelt. 

Obagi, also an attorney, went back and forth with him on the definition of “wetlands” and noted that 9300 Wilshire is now in bankruptcy proceedings regarding the purchase of the 51-acre site.

“We submitted an application prior to bankruptcy,” said Shonafelt. 

Councilman Nils Nehrenheim had more questions, and a couple comments.

“You have not been paid your $15,000 from 9300 Wilshire,” he said. 

“I’m curious to why that is relevant here,” said Shonafelt. 

Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb noted that, in his opinion, the application was incomplete for lack of “very specific, missing documents.”  

“You are owed $15,000,” Nehrenheim said to Shonafelt. “I don’t want the city owed more money.”

To make another point, Nehrenheim opened a line of questioning asking what the date was on the calendar Tuesday. 

“It’s the ninth, according to my calendar, and I hope it doesn’t turn into the tenth,” said Shonafelt. 

Nehrenheim concluded his point in that a typo in documents submitted by Shonafelt had the year wrong on a date. 

The council’s unanimous vote upheld Forbes’ opinion that the application was incomplete. 

The request was for a Coastal Development Permit, Planning Commission Design Review and Environmental Assessment.ER


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