Draft EIR meetings bring out Waterfront critics
by David Mendez
For a few hours Saturday morning, Pat Aust’s hands were full with public complaints for the first time in months.
Wearing an aqua blue sticker indicating his support for CenterCal’s proposed Waterfront project, Aust stood in the lobby outside of Jan. 9’s city-sponsored Draft Environmental Impact Report public forum, fielding compliments and complaints about the project.
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It wasn’t long before the former city councilman and fire chief developed a favorite response to comments and queries to those hoping to have the project changed.
“I’m not that guy anymore,” he said. “I can answer the historical questions, not the hysterical questions.”
A product of 2010’s Measure G, the Waterfront project would add 304,058 square feet of net new development to a 35-acre project site, redeveloping the Redondo Pier, International Boardwalk, Seaside Lagoon and multiple parking areas.
The DEIR itself is a state-mandated preliminary report outlining the potential impacts the construction and operation of a project would have on the surrounding area, as well as potential ways to mitigate those effects.
Upon its November release, the DEIR found only two significant, unmitigatable impacts: One regarding the already extant tsunami danger inherent in building a project immediately off of the sea; and another regarding increased noise levels, a result of increased human activity in the area from the project’s operation.
Though Aust was occasionally frustrated with the questions he fielded, the actual testimonies regarding the project, offered during the forum at the Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach hotel, were generally even-tempered.
“I’d say that this was the most organized and most respectful of all three of the [city-sponsored] meetings — this wasn’t the spectacle that the last meetings were,” said Nils Nehrenheim, a co-founder of Rescue Our Waterfront. Nehrenheim, Martin Holmes and former District 3 city council candidate Candace Nafissi founded the organization with the aim of protecting the city’s waterfront district from what they perceive to be rampant overdevelopment.
It appears that their meetings, the most recent of which was held on Jan. 7, at the Redondo Beach Hotel, are taking hold — many of those speaking against the project on Saturday were faces in the audience before Nehrenheim, Holmes and Nafissi two days prior.
One of the early speakers on Saturday, Wayne Craig, lifted directly from an ROW’s presentation, citing concerns about construction noise affecting potential resale value for nearby residences, the cost of the $400 million project, a lack of provisional leases for existing businesses and traffic-related concerns.
“Our talking points are resonating through the community — it’s taking hold,” Nehrenheim said. “We’re not fringe.”
Redondo resident Arnette Travis is a regular face at waterfront-related meetings — both in favor of and against the project — though she is a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of CenterCal’s work.
“I see the alternatives to the project — particularly to leave things as they are — not even a consideration; we’ve been at this for too long,” she said. “Right now, [the area] is a dump; I personally do not even ride my bike through there, and the parking structure looks like it’s going to fall apart. We need to do better because we know better, and doing nothing is not an option.”
In her remarks, Travis also complimented the work of the staffers who composed the DEIR, believing that their work “fully examined the environmental impacts” of the project.
Mark Hansen, Chair of the King Harbor Boater’s Advisory Panel, would call that estimation incorrect. Speaking at Thursday’s ROW meeting, he described significant issues with the Draft EIR, including a complete exclusion of a section relating to safety in relation to storm and wave surges, despite repeated references to potential wave and surge dangers.
“That’s where the whole discussion can end; you can tear up the whole document, because the whole thing that should stop the discussion is safety,” he said.
Hansen also pointed out logical faults he found with the potential construction of a boat ramp at Mole A, located at the north end of the harbor near King Harbor Yacht Club itself. The DEIR named Mole A as the most environmentally sound boat ramp location with the lowest traffic volume in the harbor.
However, given the proximity of the King Harbor Marina, Tarsan Standup Paddleboarding and the [King Harbor] Yacht Club, among numerous other organizations, Hansen feels that rankings of potential sites — among Moles A, C and D — are almost suspiciously incorrect.
“It’s the busiest part of the harbor because it’s the most concentrated boating area in the harbor,” he said.
The open comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Report ends on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 5:30 p.m. Information on how to submit comments to the city can be found at redondo.org.