Redondo Beach mayoral candidates confront AES powerplant, waterfront, and Galleria redevelopment
Bill Brand: a mayor with a mission
by Mark McDermott
Bill Brand is a bit weary of hearing he’s against things.
It’s true he was against the CenterCal project, and long before that, the Heart of the City plan for the redevelopment of the Redondo Beach waterfront. He’s also against the AES power plant remaining on the waterfront.
But Brand, who began as an activist against the Heart of the City back in 2001 and has since served two terms as District 2 councilperson and is now seeking his second term as mayor, argues that his opposition to those plans is based on what he’s actually for — development that is appropriate for and supported by the residents of Redondo Beach.
“It’s time to stop trying to overdevelop South Redondo and start looking for ways to revitalize without supersizing the entire community,” Brand said. “For the last 20 years they have been trying to overdevelop the power plant site, the waterfront, whatever came up. It’s time to look at the entire city and revitalize without supersizing it, whether it’s Artesia, Aviation, the waterfront, wherever — we need revitalization without supersizing, and I think that’s what resonates with people.”
Brand disputes the notion that he is anti-development, noting that he spearheaded the approval of the $900 million redevelopment of the South Bay Galleria.
“I drove the approval of the largest project in the history of Redondo Beach,” he said. “And I wrenched more affordable housing out of it in the process, more open space, a skatepark, and managed to get collaboration between the residents who were closest to the project. A couple people on the council were ready to rubber stamp it the way the Planning Commission had. So I was able to marshal approval of an extremely important project that’s going to help revitalize North Redondo, and then we got $2 million for the Artesia and Aviation Boulevard corridors. I’m looking forward to the next four years, not just for North Redondo, but for all of Redondo.”
“We need developers,” said Brand, who has an engineering degree and an MBA and spent 30 years with American Airlines as a crew chief. “Developers are a key part of how we revitalize our city. They’re the ones who take the risks. They’re the ones who put up the equity. They’re the ones who can execute. But it’s up to the community and their leaders to throttle how much development there is. You know, Redondo Beach is built out. And we can’t just continue to rubber stamp projects like we’ve been doing for 20 years.”
Brand lists four priorities for his second term as mayor, beginning with fiscal responsibility and public safety.
“The number one priority of any elected official should be balancing the budgets without raising taxes, while maintaining police and fire services,” he said. “If you are not doing the basics, which those certainly are, then you will fail.”
“The number two thing I’m pushing for is revitalization,” Brand said. “The Artesia-Aviation Boulevard corridors are key gateways to our city that are untapped opportunities, and our focus on that recently is exciting. I think over the next four years, you’re going to see us really changing things in those areas.”
His third priority is preventing the California state legislature from forcing higher density zoning on cities like Redondo Beach. Brand has authored a statewide initiative to make zoning and land use strictly a local affair. Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Senator Steve Glazer have authored a similar bill, but if their efforts fail Brand hopes his initiative will go to a statewide vote.
“We have really got to stop the California state legislature from pushing to rezone our neighborhoods to high density residential, and you’ve seen that every year for the last three years,” Brand said. “The state legislature is looking to rezone our single family areas to four and six on a lot, including ADU use. Our schools are full. We have structural budget deficits when we have too much residential development. The state is then taking a broad brush to cities all over California, blaming us for the housing shortage and affordability crisis, and they’re going to do great damage with the bills that they’ve been considering over the years. So we are continuing to have a very active role in Sacramento to stop them stripping us of local control of how much gets built where.”
HIs fourth priority is to finish the effort he started almost two decades ago, to replace the AES power plant with a park. And that begins with getting rid of the power plant, which was about to be phased out when AES obtained an extension last year.
“They were trying to extend it for three years,” Brand said. “We fought very hard to get it down to one year. It was supposed to retire last December 31. The way it is right now, it will retire at the end of the year, but we have to stay on it and make sure they don’t get any more extensions. And when the power lines come down, we want to be able to purchase the land west of PCH for public uses and open space and habitat restoration so that you just don’t see big buildings go up west to PCH, right by the Redondo Beach sign. That should be public land. I’ve been working closely with Southern California Edison and made it quite clear that we’re interested in that land. When the lines come down, we’ll be first in line.”
Brand himself has said that when this battle began, he felt a little bit like Don Quixote, tilting at windmills — the idea that the power plant could be retired and replaced with wetlands restoration was labeled a pipe dream by many, yet now it’s a goal that is within reach. It’s one of the reasons, Brand said, that he decided to run for reelection as mayor, even as he faces a personal battle with brain and lung cancer.
“There’s so much at stake,” Brand said. “I mean, the overdevelopment forces of Redondo Beach are trying to get their power back. And they only need to win one race. We are on the cusp of some great things in Redondo Beach. The next four years have huge opportunities at the waterfront, Galleria, Artesia and Aviation boulevards, the power lines coming down. This would not be the time to be walking away. This is probably the most critical time. It takes a while to turn around the Queen Mary, and we’ve got about another 90 degrees to go. We’ve got to win this election; if we don’t, we’re going to go back to malls on the waterfront and big development on the AES site and not focusing on open space and parks. It will be a very gratifying thing to see, when we will shift and focus on open space and parks right at the beach.” ER
Shayne Hartman: the mayor as mama bear
by Mark McDermott
Shayne Hartman is running a very atypical mayoral campaign because she does not intend to be a typical mayor. She plans to be less a political figure and more of a unifying motivator who will bring mindfulness practices, community connection, and compassionate leadership to Redondo Beach.
“Really, I want to just be a mama bear for the community,” said Hartman. “Because that’s what I am. I feel like like what I’m meant to be doing is to protect people and to ensure everybody gets a fair chance. When it comes to major issues, education, homelessness, mental illness and mental wellness type activities are things I plan to work on, and helping small businesses in the community. I want to be a fighter, too, especially with why we can’t be closing down restaurants. I would definitely be somebody who is sticking up for the community to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Hartman has been a somewhat mysterious candidate in that she hasn’t yet made appearances at forums or waged a campaign via mailers or signs, nor did she file a candidate bio for the ballot, as is customary. The reason, she said, was that the bio cost $1,600 to file. Hartman said the cost was indicative of a political system not intended to include a lot of people, including younger people like herself — she is 32, and works in the defense industry — for whom such a sum represents a big chunk of a paycheck. Hartman said that her goal is to involve people who are currently excluded.
“We are all the same within, you know,” she said. “It’s so easy for us to look at the differences that we have, and then just roll people out. But I really think that it’s something that we need to look at, which is what makes us the same. We all have families, we all want to love, we all want to do good for the community. But sometimes people feel discouraged because they aren’t being heard, or they just don’t feel like they are part of the crowd. And I totally can kind of get that because, being my age — like it cost $1,600 for me to put in a 200 word bio into the ballot. And to me, I think that’s unfair. I think it should have been just free for everybody to put in a 200 word bio. But because I am somebody who doesn’t make enough money and there’s no opportunities for fundraising because COVID, basically I opted out.”
Hartman views her age as an asset in helping attract younger generations to city government and to community involvement generally. She describes herself as a “outside the box” thinker who will find new ways to reach people not usually involved with local government. For example, she intends to host a podcast called “The Connection” in which she talks to diverse members of the community.
“I’m really somebody who is a connector, and I know I could definitely do a lot for Redondo with bringing people together,” Hartman said.
Creating new mental health programs throughout the city is one of Hartman’s top priorities. She said that her hope is to collaborate with a local yoga teacher, Sukhmani, on several projects, including yoga classes at the pier and mindfulness teachings in schools.
“One thing I’d like to try to do is incorporate mindfulness in the school system, if that’s possible,” Hartman said. “Maybe it’s during gym class, or maybe it’s just five minutes when classes start each period when we have a moment of mindfulness where the kids have to sit still for five minutes and just meditate. But try to incorporate mindfulness where they learn how to slow their minds down, and really understand what’s most important on this planet. Not social media, not what you wear….but to make sure that you know how to heal yourself.”
A key facet of her idea for compassionate leadership would be greater outreach to the homeless population. She believes the current approach, which locally has included new temporary homeless shelters, is just a band aid approach that misses the deeper underlying causes of homelessness.
“I think it’s one of the systemic issues of why our community, and LA in general, is having an issue [with homelessness], with society the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer,” she said. “And we need to figure out a solution so that we can help get people back on their feet before it gets too late….And I don’t think that just building a couple little shelters, it just seems very like, well, we pat ourselves on the back, like we’re doing amazing. I don’t really think we are doing amazing. I don’t feel love and compassion from that whole thing.”
In a more specifically local issue, Hartman advocates repealing Measure C in order to help spur more investment in the waterfront. But she also argues that regardless of the larger political currents, the city should do simple improvements to improve its waterfront area.
“I live right across the street from it, and I don’t like to go down there at night,” she said. “Once it goes dark, I don’t go down there. It’s just scary. Even during the day, it’s kind of scary. I’ve seen human feces on the ground down there, on the pier, you know, and it’s just not cleaned up. The flags that are at that park across the street from me, right next to R-10, are all beat up and haven’t really been replaced for years. I would say at a minimum, let’s start making small renovations to clean it up, to make it feel safe, whether it’s having better lighting down there or just having it clean.”
The overarching theme in what Hartman hopes to achieve as mayor is the idea of connection, be it through creating better places for people to congregate, or tending to those people who are left out of the community.
“There’s just not really much of a connection. I don’t really find a central place for our community,” Hartman said. “I really want to unite our community and really bring us together, and I think I actually have that power to do so. Because of my age, I would be able to connect with people from all generations and really inspire the youth… I really want to bring in people and light the city back up, basically, from the inside out. And I really think that it starts with a really good leader who can do that.” ER
Michael Ian Sachs: a mayor as arbitrator
by Mark McDermott
Michael Ian Sachs is relatively new to Redondo Beach politics, but he’s seen enough to believe that a few fundamental changes would be helpful. First and foremost, Sachs thinks those active in the city’s politics have spent too much time and energy fighting amongst themselves. He hopes to become a mayor who helps broker a more respectful dialogue.
“It’s time to work together,” said Sachs, who recently retired after a long career in maintenance and operations at Chevron, where he helped conduct conflict resolution between management and labor. “It seems like what’s happened in our city is that it’s unfortunately split into these two sides, or camps. I mean, people look at them many different ways or sides — north, south. Developers, NIMBYs. I know people on both sides of these debates, and they are all good people. They all want the best; it’s just odd how we’ve gotten to the point where it’s brought out the worst in some. The respect has faltered. It’s kind of like what’s happening nationally. We are not listening as much to each other. One of my main goals is to get these two sides to respect each other, to look at each other as human beings who care about things but just disagree a little bit.”
Sachs, who also ran for mayor in 2017 and in 2014 ran as a Green Party candidate for Congress, said the conflict he hopes to resolve has resulted in an impasse in the city’s two-decade quest to redevelop its waterfront.
“For me, I look at the role of the mayor as an arbitrator, not someone who’s taking sides,” Sachs said. “Someone who sees value in both arguments can work with both sides and give each respect. They will both have a seat at the table.”
Sachs expressed respect for incumbent Mayor Bill Brand, but said that if becomes mayor, his approach will be very different. He will seek a compromise between those who supported the proposed CenterCal waterfront development and those who supported it.
“The mayor has been successful lately at campaigns, so they’re just going to keep pushing this until they lose, and maybe that’ll bring them to the table,” Sachs said. “But they just have to realize that 40 plus percent who voted for the development, it’s only going to get larger, that percentage, as the years go by and they don’t see any visible change down there….We’ve been trying for 20 some years to get rid of that power plant, to get our waterfront fixed up, and people are just not seeing it. So I’m looking at ways where I can prod them, even if I’m not the mayor going forward, to let the mayor and council know time is of the essence. I’m 57. I am not thinking of myself, but 10 or 20 years from now. What do we want to leave? What’s the legacy? They might be calling it the Bill Brand power plant. If it wasn’t for him, it would have been gone by now. Would you like what would be there instead? Maybe not everything. But what could be worse than that hideous, environmentally unsound eyesore?”
If elected, Sachs plans to task the councilperson from District 2 — which includes the waterfront — with leading a process that results in a plan everyone can live with.
“I want District 2 to decide,” Sachs said. “We’ve always started with a private partner and the city working out a plan dealing with the zoning, what can we put there, and then they roll it out with a town hall and some other things and then they try to get it passed. And it hasn’t worked. So what I would do is I would tap the council member of District 2 — whether it be [the incumbedent] Mr. Lowenstein, who obviously has the experience to do it, or the other two candidates have the passion — to make it happen…spearhead a project, find out what will [the residents] of District 2 tolerate down there? Nothing is not an answer. Obviously, we’ve got to get rid of that plant. We’ve got to upgrade the waterfront.”
Sachs lists environmental sustainability as another priority. He isn’t a believer in things like plastic bag bans but does support what he considers a more common-sense, market based approach, including the New Green Deal proposed by some members of Congress.
“I am green minded,” Sachs said. “Every decision I make will relate to how it affects our environment.”
Another of Sachs priorities is reflected in his decision not to accept campaign contributions.
“That’s another of my overarching goals,” Sachs said. “We all laugh when someone says, ‘Let’s get the money out of politics.’ But it starts with leadership from someone like me who says ‘I’m not taking anyone’s money.’ I’ve been offered [contributions] and I say, no, keep your money. You can spend it on better things than giving it to a city official who’s going to send a mailer to you every day saying negative things about the other guy, or it’s going to end up in the recycling bin, or you’re gonna have a bunch of yard signs that end up in the landfill the day after the election. So you won’t be seeing that of me. I know it’s a disadvantage for me to show leadership on the money issue, but I’m giving people an option for that.” ER
Mayoral candidate Chris Voisey. Photo courtesy Chris Voisey
Chris Voisey: mayor for One Redondo
by Mark McDermott
Chris Voisey was like a lot of people. He paid a little attention to city government, but not a lot. But every morning when he woke up, he’d see the power lines to the AES power plant outside his window, and he began following those lines until they led him all the way into the thicket of city politics.
“My passion point started with seeing the power lines, and loving the stories of what could get rid of those power lines and the power plant that supplied them,” Voisey said. “I started following the politics of it — not even the politics, but the proposals and the arguments and what was going on. I started to do my own homework and I got into a little further and realized those power lines aren’t going to go anywhere. We are far from it. I think it’s great, it’s noble, but we are nowhere near doing anything because everyone is arguing.”
Voisey was an advocate for a waterfront project and thought the CenterCal proposal was workable with some downsizing. He became so involved that he and fellow development advocate, Arnette Travis, filed a lawsuit against Mayor Bill Brand, Councilperson Nils Nehrenheim, and the Save Our Waterfront PAC for alleged campaign violations. The suit, which in the course of its trial was discovered to have been funded by CenterCal, failed when a Superior Court judge deemed it frivolous. That initial ruling was appealed, but an appeals court has issued a preliminary ruling upholding the original verdict, which would leave Voisey and Travis responsible for well over a million dollars in legal fees.
“The bottom line is that I do believe in truth and following the rules and laws set forward,” he said. “I think that Brand and company violated clear campaign laws, which we did have experts, such as the former head of the FPPC that also guided us on her opinion that this was a clear violation. I think the Redondo Beach public should know the truth. Beyond that, this was a private matter that some people have turned political. That was not the intention. Elected officials and propositions/measures have to have proper and legal representation.”
Voisey also said that Brand “is no stranger” to lawsuits.
“Together with others such as Jim Light, Brand repeatedly sued the city, inflicting and demanding compensation well into seven figures,” he said, adding that no final judgement in his case has yet been made. “Currently, no money is owing to anyone, as the case is in appeals.”
As his involvement deepened, Voisey decided to be the change he sought. Last fall, concerned that no one was yet opposing Brand, he entered the race for mayor. He believed that different leadership could find a way to bring the power lines down and not only redevelop the waterfront, but bring forward a new, more unified vision for the future of other key areas of the city, specifically Artesia Boulevard and the Galleria. He calls his vision “One Redondo.”
“My three initiatives are really One Redondo,” Voisey said. “I feel like we neglect different neighborhoods, and this whole north-south divide. That’s a key, I am using the concept of One Redondo, and it’s really important to me because I think that if we spend $1 in the south, we have to spend $1 in the north. And I don’t mean to be too literal in that, but let’s start talking about the north end to the south end. This is one city; it’s not two.”
Voisey said that since redevelopment needs to occur in several areas of the city, the approach should be to look at those changes as a whole.
“The waterfront, that the ship has sailed, and the voters have spoken,” he said. “We’ll figure out what we can do; we may have to make some changes. But right now, we have to come up with some sort of plan. As I see it, there are four thorns in our side: the waterfront, AES, Artesia, and the Galleria. Those are not the only focuses, but One Redondo — let’s balance it, and focus on all of them. It’s not just put all our eggs in one basket and say, ‘Okay, now let’s move on to the next.”
Another priority for Voisey is local control. He supports keeping the police and fire departments within the city’s control, rather than contracting out to LA County, and is against state laws encroaching on local zoning.
“Local control starts with law enforcement,” Voisey said. “I come from a family of law enforcement….These should remain as City of Redondo Beach services. I’ve personally lived through both fire and police going to a county’s control….Response times went up. When something is going on, they’ve got backfill, and the response is coming, but it’s not there. The community-driven part of it is not there. Our officers are part of our community.”
Another priority for Voisey comes from his own background. He owns his own information technology small business, and believes he can bring that experience to bear in two ways — by using technology to better engage the community in city government, and to better advocate for small business as a driver of the local economy. He thinks the city can work more closely with the private sector to help rather than hamper business growth.
“COVID has crushed businesses,” Voisey said. “We have empty storefronts, like on Artesia, and that really bothers me….We need to partner with businesses. We need to have somebody who is willing to work with them, like the Chamber of Commerce but not just them, to create a business concierge and make processes easier. We can’t go and do all of this ourselves, because it is out of what the realm of the city should be doing, but we can bring people to the table, foster and create growth committees, growth groups that we really do support and participate in. I want to do more of that, and simplify the red tape.” ER
Be an Easy Reader Free Press supporter!
Yes, we know Easy Reader and EasyReaderNews.com are free. But they are not free to produce. The advertiser model that traditionally supported newspapers is fading away. This is our way of transitioning to a future where newspapers are supported by their readers. Which is as it should be. We hope you’ll support us. — Kevin Cody, Publisher