David Mendez

Emdee aims to ‘move forward’

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District 5 Councilwoman Laura Emdee. Photo courtesy City of Redondo Beach

by David Mendez

When Laura Emdee is asked why she puts herself through the rigor of public service, one response always pops into her head: Why don’t you?

“If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, you don’t have any right to complain,” Emdee said. “That’s why I believe in public service. It’s me giving back to a community that I love.”

Emdee’s goal in seeking reelection to the Redondo Beach City Council is the same as it was in 2015 — to put focus on the neighborhoods between Marine Avenue and Artesia Boulevard, and to get residents engaged. Her style is based in pragmatism and mass outreach via email and local meetings, not stirring up emotion and anger.

“I can’t imagine that being upset leads to good governance,” Emdee said. “I think good governance is when you can hear both sides of an issue and develop a solution that works for everyone. If you’re always on one side of an issue, that seems like more of a divided government than not.”

But Emdee has found herself on the losing side of the waterfront development issue by supporting the CenterCal Waterfront project. That plan died following opposition from resident groups and the passage of new waterfront zoning designed, in part, to choke the project.

The March 2019 election will prove whether voters feel she can live down her vote for the city to purchase the Redondo Fun Factory lease for $9 million. The buyout was required to build the CenterCal project and reconstruct the city’s Pier Parking Structure.

“That buyout was based on a plan that was done ages ago to buy out leases to have control at the waterfront,” Emdee said, referencing the city’s 2007 Harbor Asset Management plan. That plan recommended purchasing and consolidating pier-area leaseholds to eventually partner with another entity.

But the Fun Factory buyout and subsequent lease framework agreement with CenterCal put Emdee at odds with the majority of voters who rejected the project, leading to appeals and lawsuits that dog City Hall to this day.

“But I’m not angry we don’t have a project at the pier. Let’s go on to the next thing; because there’s no project, there’s no new revenue, so how are we going to pay for services?” Emdee asked. “Let’s find a way to make things work. I’m always looking for a way forward.”

When she looks back at her term, she takes pride in the reinvestment the city has taken in North Redondo along the Edison Right-of-Way bike path, and the storefront improvement plan on Artesia Boulevard. Her election-night party is planned for Panelas, a new Brazilian restaurant in a former liquor store just blocks away from her home.

But residents have wondered if her remove is just aloofness, asking her why she isn’t angry about issues.

“I said it doesn’t matter that I’m upset about it, it matters that you’re upset. My job is to represent you,” Emdee said. “I’m presented with problems, I figure out how to fix it and how to move forward. That’s my job.”

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