King Harbor reckoning in Redondo Beach
by Garth Meyer
When Jeremy Klemic stepped to the podium at Redondo Beach city hall Tuesday, May 31, and asked the overflow crowd, “How do we make the King Harbor Area the best version of itself,” the consultant knew many had answers in mind.
The vast majority even wore matching shirts – red for Lanakila Outrigger Club, who seek an expanded paddling facility as one component to a reimagined waterfront.
Klemic is an associate principal of Los Angeles-based SWA Group. His landscape architecture firm has been retained by the City of Redondo Beach to shepherd a King Harbor Amenities Plan now entering its fourth, and final phase.
The May 31 community meeting was the first in-person session for a process begun last September. (Previous meetings were held online because of the pandemic). Information gathered will shape proposals for the harbor, to be shown for public review in late July through early September.
“This will be the stage that we’ll say a boat ramp will go here rather than there; we definitely want to keep the sportfishing pier, or we don’t,” said Harbor Commission Chair Roger Carlson, a member of the King Harbor Amenities working group.
About 700 residents responded to each of two city surveys about the waterfront, one last December and the second in April of this year.
“What we heard was, there has to be a boat launch,” Klemic said.
He assessed the International Boardwalk.
“It feels like it’s been left alone too long. That it wants something to happen,” he said.
Some residents want dry boat storage. Others want a lap pool.
The AES plant cast its shadow too. How long would certain things be put off from the waterfront in the hope that they would go on the AES property when it becomes city-owned?
The harbor is subject to a wide range of restrictions.
The Harbor Patrol next to Moonstone Park requires an open 110-foot diameter space for rescue helicopters to land. Some of the harbor is controlled by the state, which has its own requirements.
The purpose of the May 31 meeting was to gather more input from residents.
“I’m afraid we’ve lost a generation of boaters at King Harbor,” Harbor Commissioner Jim Light said, because Redondo Beach has little dry dock storage and no public boat launch.
Audience members called for a lap pool. A woman followed up, to “put an exclamation point” on the request.
“People said, ‘I want to use Seaside Lagoon year-round, and I want to use it without paying.’ The survey said that pretty strongly,” Harbor Commission’s Carlson said. “You need it to be more than it is now, to be open year round.”
This week, the city put out an RFP (request for proposals) for Seaside Lagoon. The state has committed $10 million to its improvement.
“We wanted to get a jump on having an architect ready once the plan is set,” said Greg Kapovich, the city’s new waterfront and economic development director.
Lanakila Outrigger Club founder Al Ching was among its supporters at the May 31 meeting. He started Lanakila in 1970.
Lanakila member Brian Mitchell spoke on the club’s behalf.
He asked for a new dock to launch its 44-foot canoes, and more space to store them.
He said the club would like to expand its 12,750 square feet next to Moonstone Park by another 2,200 square feet.
The club would also like storage space next to the restroom proposed for the park.
“They have very valid concerns,” said City Councilman Christian Horvath.
a Zoom observer disagreed.
“Lanakila is getting greedy. Give us a swim pool,” the comment read.
What about the Sportfishing Pier and its condemned buildings? SWA showed updated drawings at the meeting for a “dock and dine” area for boats to pull up.
Would it be able to handle the ocean’s swell, surge and tide, a man asked in the audience.
The Pier has been “red-tagged” as unsafe go on to, fenced-off since 2018.
“You can’t put a Band-Aid on it anymore,” Carlson said.
Julie Coll of Waterfront Education, based at King Harbor, said the surge would be manageable.
Another request aired May 31 is for out-of-the-water boat storage.
Andy Beggs of the King Harbor Youth Foundation noticed something while walking by the closed Ruby’s Diner on Memorial Day.
“A vast, empty parking lot. We could create a temporary dry boat storage,” he said.
A month ago, the city leased the Ruby’s Diner building to the owners of Quality Seafood, who look to open a new restaurant at the spot next year.
Jerry Marcil spoke of an existential question of the harbor.
He noted that he owns two businesses in Redondo Beach and pays the city $400,000 in taxes every year.
He has been a Lanakila member for 20 years.
“I have not seen a dollar spent on Mole B in all that time,” he said. “What are the odds of anything happening?”
Roger Carlson later answered his question.
“We’ve all seen Charlie Brown kicking the football (but) there is really is money, there really is a willingness,” Carlson said.
A “mole” at the harbor is a part which protrudes outward, while not allowing water underneath.
Another commenter noted Moonstone Park’s importance as the marker of the lost Moonstone Beach, which succumbed in parts to “one development or another.”
The man from King Harbor Youth Foundation, Andy Beggs, then made an overall point.
“Lanakila is the attraction (of the harbor). The other is youth sailing. This is what people are watching when they come down to the harbor,” he said.
“There isn’t an awareness of what we do down there,” said Lanakila president Moses Rambler, also a member of the Amenities Plan Working Group.
He explained that the club needs to protect its canoes from damage when stacked, as they are now. The storage proposed alongside the new Moonstone Park restroom would be for paddles, life jackets and cockpit covers.
“If we didn’t need space for equipment, we wouldn’t ask for space,” Rambler said. “Our goal is to get more people on the water. That’s our motivation. But we’re maxed out.”
Their request would not cut into the required 110-foot diameter for helicopter landing.
“It seems worthwhile to me, it’s not that much space,” Carlson said. “I look at it like the Little League asking for space at a city park. It’s a really active club. They put more people on the water for more hours than anyone else.”
In the drawings presented May 31, SWA showed a cement platform over the existing rocks at Moonstone Park, as one modification, to allow a view of the water.
A boat ramp
Boats are launched today in King Harbor by a hoist across from the International Boardwalk. Requests have been made since the harbor was built for a boat ramp where trailer boats can be backed into the water. The requests have not been without controversy.
“A ramp takes a lot of space. A ramp makes a harbor busier. Which may not be popular,” Carlson said.
His overall view of the Amenities Plan remains is optimistic.
“There’s not a lot of big consternation, people seem happy with that. In the past, people were saying to the city, ‘You’re on the wrong track,’” Carlson said, referring to the canceled CenterCal waterfront project. “While some aspects of that I liked, I like what we’re doing this time better.”
The CenterCal project was voted down in 2017, following Mayor Bill Brand’s “Revitalize, Not Supersize” campaign, which led to the Amenities Plan.
The Plan’s working group – which consists of people representing city staff, Harbor Patrol, Redondo Beach Fire Department, King Harbor Yacht Club and more — were the first to take the two surveys and helped refine and clarify questions. The working group also had an early look at the latest drawings presented last week.
“(This project) is once in a generation. Once in a lifetime,” said Carlson. “It’s an honor to be part of this.”
City Councilman Todd Loewenstein, whose district includes the harbor, said the city is talking to State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, and State Senator Ben Allen about getting money from the new state surplus to add to the $10 million allocated for Seaside Lagoon.
Loewenstein noted that he hopes the longtime harbor feature will change from more of an attraction for young kids to something for all ages.
“The waterfront represents the wider area, not just Redondo Beach,” Loewenstein said.
More funding is and will be sought elsewhere.
“There’s a lot of ways to fund this work. We gotta do it within our means. It might be project by project,” said Loewenstein.
“I’m hoping start to finish it’s 5-10 years,” he said. “With any success and luck we could start groundbreaking next year.”
Last Thursday evening at the harbor, June 2, Lanakila members loaded ten long, six-man boats into the water to paddle to Marina Del Rey for races on Saturday. To do it, they had to navigate concrete steps to a small dock. The club hopes to expand this launch area – which would not affect Moonstone Park proper.
The park and Lanakila Club is on the part of Mole B.
“There’s been a lot of talk the last couple decades what to do with that area,” said Lanakila’s Rambler, a 17-year clubmember.
Rambler noted that Lanakila has lobbied for the past 10 years to fix up Moonstone Park.
“Until this last meeting, I had no idea it was a tribute to Moonstone Beach,” he said. “We’ve always wanted to be a part of the park, an extension of it.”
Lanakila has 300 registered members, paying $425 per year per adult, which covers insurance, race entry fees, a jersey and more.
“If we could design a space that used less square footage, we’d love to do that. We don’t want to consume more park space,” Rambler said.
Is the club too big then?
“There is no ‘too big’ for the public,” Rambler said. “The Coastal Commission is clear about having a low-cost way to get on the water, to create recreational boating. Finding a sport that is a team activity, in your 30s, 40s, and up, that you thought was gone is amazing… The park is under-utilized. I want to know where these people were when we’ve been trying to improve it, during the (previous) boat ramp discussions.”
Overall, the club hopes their request is considered as the Amenities Plan moves forward.
“Today, there’s a lot of pushback on it,” Rambler said.
“A selfish-land grab” as one commenter put it at one meeting.
“It feels bad to be criticized for trying to support a community goal of recreational boating use,” Rambler said. “We really do want more of the public down there doing what we do. and we want to provide that opportunity.”
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand noted the importance of the next stage in the amenities process.
“It’s still playing itself out, but we got a pretty clear picture of what the public wants to see,” Brand said Monday. “Things are taking shape and we’re going to make some big decisions this summer.”
One particular area has drawn his favor.
“The best idea is the education center, something that frankly doesn’t exist in all of Santa Monica Bay,” he said.
Plans for this are coming together at the site of the present Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant. The city owns the building and the lease.
Ideas for a learning center include an aquaponic garden, a white shark study informational area, and a homebase for King Harbor’s existing Waterfront Education program.
“I can absolutely see it happening,” said the mayor, noting that the education center would be on state land, as is Seaside Lagoon, which opens doors for funding.
Once Harbor pieces are redesigned, built or fixed-up, the next question is how to pay for maintenance. This is why a commercial component is expected.
“That’s the next step,” Brand said. “We’re starting with amenities… And then we move on to commercialization. One step at a time. The more people you attract to the water, the more commercial interests take notice.”
Waterfront Director Kapovich suggested that commerce may come in the form of an additional building, as opposed to “a mall.”
Since CenterCal was scrapped and devolved into litigation, issues it brought up remain at the harbor.
One of which is maintenance.
“It’s going to be a costly endeavor,” said City Councilman Christian Horvath. “One of the reasons for CenterCal, was that it was a public-private partnership. The private partner was to be responsible for (all of the) upkeep. The point was to make sure it was a financially stable model for the next hundred years.”
He noted that a current “decision package” for the 2023 city budget includes $4.3 million from the general fund for a seismic retrofit of the pier parking structure.
That would have been paid for by CenterCal.
In the end, Horvath, and other CenterCal supporters believe the project would have aided other parts of the city, as well.
“It was going to be financially stable. We would’ve been done, wiped clean. It would have handled a lot of things – then we could direct money to other areas of the city. There were things I didn’t like about it, I didn’t like the big parking structure… but to be able to bring the attention back to North Redondo, Artesia, to re-direct our attention up here.”
Today, for the Amenities Plan, the draft for the coming public hearing will show what items to include, as opposed to specific designs.
For example, the draft would establish that Seaside Lagoon will have a lap pool, not a wave pool. Sizing and spacing to come.
“Iterative is the operative word,” SWA’s Klemic said. “This is not to produce shovel-ready projects, but an overall list.”
Other recent harbor work done by SWA includes Hunter’s Point South in Long Island City, New York, and the Embarcadero in San Diego. ER