New Housing plan draws focus on North Redondo
by Garth Meyer
Redondo Beach’s latest housing plan, adopted July 5, would place most of the 2,490 new units mandated by the State to city council districts 3,4 and 5, in north Redondo.
This is the city’s third attempt to meet new California requirements for a nine-year housing document.
Many North Redondo residents are not happy with the local plan.
“We’re already pretty crowded,” a woman from District 4 told the council the night of the vote.
Other residents called for equal distribution of new housing among the five districts.
“We’re doing this because of the State,” Mayor Pro-Tem Nils Nehrenheim said. “This is a giveaway to Wall Street developers.”
“Nobody on the council wants to be adding more density to Redondo Beach,” said District 4 Councilman Zein Obagi, Jr. “We have no choice. (Otherwise) a judge will take over our zoning.”
Objai explained his support for the 2021-29 plan, saying the new housing should be on the city’s periphery, near the freeway, and North Redondo transit center “on the east side of our city.”
He said distributing it across the five districts would make traffic worse because the new residents would traverse the city on their way to their out-of-town jobs.
District 2 Councilman Todd Loewenstein (south Redondo) pointed to the number of large, 40-plus unit condominium buildings along the Esplanade and Catalina Avenue, compared to the fewer number of large residential developments elsewhere in the city.
But Councilman Christian Horvath, District Three (north) disagreed with Obagi’s “idea of transit-oriented development.”
“Public transportation doesn’t work in the South Bay,” he said at the July 5 meeting. “We’ve learned that residential doesn’t necessarily generate traffic, commercial does. This does not mean transit-oriented development cannot work elsewhere. In areas with very robust transit systems and connectivity, it can absolutely make a difference. The South Bay does not have that.”
Following the discussion, Obagi introduced a motion, seconded by Loewenstein, to adopt the latest housing document.
It addressed the state department of Housing and Community Development (HCD)’s feedback from the last attempt, in April. Nehrenheim cast the third vote for approval.
Councilwoman Laura Emdee (District 5, north) was absent.
Out of town work
After the meeting, Emdee said she would have voted against the plan because it puts an unfair burden on one area of the city.
Loewenstein, a former, eight-year resident of District 4, pointed out that District 5 has many single-family units.
“There are very few single-family homes in my district (District 1, and yet they’re saying you need to do your part, ignoring the density,” he said. ‘To say that districts one and two are not doing their part is crazy.”
“We have a much higher population (in the north) than they do,” Emdee countered. “When you add these new units, we’re going to be double South Redondo’s density… In 0.6 miles of Kingsdale alone, that’s 1,536 new homes proposed.”
According to a 2014 Commuter Flows study by the U.S. Census Bureau, 92 percent of Redondo residents work outside the city.
Loewenstein cites the statistic as key to the housing plan. Horvath says it is outdated.
Loewenstein also disputes whether commercial development brings more traffic than residential.
“That’s not accurate, you have to look at peak times. Commercial is spread out during the day. If you get on the 405 at 11 a.m., it’s not (bad), but at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m…” he said.
“Nobody’s driving to their job in the middle of the Pacific Ocean,” Obagi said. “The vast majority are commuting eastbound through District 4 and District 5.”
Redondo now awaits review by the State’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
At the time the city submitted its list in July, only 16 of 197 jurisdictions in the Southern California Association of Governments had an HCD-certified plan.
The city consulted with the Redondo Beach Unified School District on the new home locations.
The district confirmed it had adequate capacity for the prospective new students. It emphasized the importance of new walking and biking paths to and from elementary and middle schools.
Plans are underway for the student paths, through the city’s capital improvements program.
Zoning locations for 2,490 new State-mandated units
- South Bay Galleria (new name: South Bay Social District): 650 units
- North Tech: 175 units (north of 405 freeway)
- South Bay Marketplace: 486 units (next to the Galleria)
- Kingsdale Avenue: 125 units (south side of Artesia Boulevard between a freight rail right-of-way and Kingsdale Avenue)
- Near the new transit center: 273 units (south of Target)
- 190th Street: 331 units (north of 190th, along Meyer Lane and Mary Ann Drive)
- The FedEx site: 80 units (off Pacific Coast Highway, east of Palos Verdes Boulevard and east of the Legado mixed-use site).
The city council took its first vote on the 2021-29 housing plan last October.
Since HCD rejected that version, the city has twice resubmitted it with revisions.
The HCD’s denials have centered on the probability of the new units getting built.
The State now has 60 days from last month’s filing to respond.
“Look, Redondo Beach has 11,000 (housing) units per square mile. We are a great example of what the HCD would like to see in a community,” Mayor Bill Brand said. “Our schools are full, our traffic is clogged. We are offering Section 8 housing… This is a statewide issue. The story is in the numbers. Only a certain number of cities have received a certified housing (plan for 2021-29).”
These housing plans have been required for decades, but now are undergoing tougher state scrutiny.
“Now they have an enforcement division,” Brand said. “If cities don’t step up, it remains to be seen what the enforcement agency will do.”
He said he expects Redondo’s latest plan to be certified.
In the background of these Redondo decisions is the 54-acre AES power plant and adjacent undeveloped land under the power lines.
Last year, during the October attempt at a new housing plan, AES owner Leo Pustilnikov submitted the first of several letters to HCD, expressing willingness to build housing units there.
“His letters stated that as the property owner of 1021 North Harbor Drive, and 1100 North Harbor Drive, he is eager to build housing at the sites,” said Brandy Forbes, Redondo Beach community development director.
The AES land is now zoned “P-GP, Generating Plant Zone.” This means parks are permitted uses and public utilities are conditional uses.
A zoning revision would require a public vote.
“This would be the last place we would rezone for housing,” Mayor Brand said.
He hopes to see it become recreational open space.
Councilmen Nehrenheim, Loewenstein and Obagi have also expressed opposition to housing at the AES site, while councilmembers Emdee and Horvath are open to (some) housing being put there “in support of a park.”
“We are an outlier, we are way ahead, and that’s the story,” said Brand. ER