Sandbox by Bill Brand 8-2-18
by Bill Brand
The Redondo Beach waterfront is in play like never before. The AES power plant is for sale, the power lines are coming down, large leaseholds in the Harbor are expiring, and the 524,000 square foot Waterfront Project was recently withdrawn from consideration by the developer, CenterCal Properties.
After decades of former mayors and city councils pushing what most of us saw as piecemeal over development plans, we now have a golden opportunity to re-envision, rezone and redevelop these areas in an integrated way that maximizes open space while providing a realistic financial model that will carry Redondo Beach far into the future.
This recent, but long fought-for series of events, represent a “watershed” moment for Redondo Beach, but change doesn’t happen overnight. With entrenched momentum at the City that for too long has been focused on big deals with big developers, shifting to a more measured approach, focused on public amenities, coastal access and restoring some of the wetlands at the AES site is like turning the Queen Mary around. It is precarious and it takes time.
Most everyone understands that King Harbor needs upgrading. While the age and size is part of its charm, much of it is outdated and rundown. Some areas have been neglected, and private investment has been minimal given the lease terms that required the option for the City to cancel with only six months notice in anticipation of a deal with CenterCal. Regardless, revitalizing without supersizing is a must.
There’s already 900,000 sq.ft. of development on the ground in King Harbor. At 11,000 residents per square mile (Long Beach is only 9,000), schools at capacity, ever-worsening traffic, and our park poor status, Redondo Beach is clearly built out.
Moving forward, we need to follow a path toward sustainability by taking actions that improve our quality of life, as opposed to continuing to build our way into more congestion and gridlock. In baseball parlance, it’s time for Redondo Beach to start hitting some singles and doubles, instead of swinging for the fence and striking out.
While CenterCal has mired our waterfront in litigation for the time being, we do have the resources to move forward on smaller projects that the City was responsible for anyway, such as rebuilding the Sport Fishing Pier and building a boat ramp. The public workshops are complete and these decisions will be before the City Council in the near future.
The process for removing the power lines running up 190th Street is moving forward as well. The City is currently working with Southern California Edison to estimate the cost of removing this eyesore.
The AES power plant will cease operation by December 31, 2020. AES has informed us that they are in final talks with a potential new buyer. This 50-acre site is only zoned for a park, with “public utility” as a conditional use. Any significant zoning change will require a vote of the public, thanks to Measure DD in 2008 and the resulting amendment to our City Charter. So do not forget that the density and character of the AES site and the Edison right-of-way under the power lines is up to you — the voters, not the developer.
We will eventually need a new development partner, or partners, who will listen to the community and craft a project based on the feedback from the community. Listening is easy, but the right developer will collaborate with the public, incorporate that input into their project, and know the key to a successful project is rooted in that collaboration.
Up next is the California Coastal Commission hearing next week right here in Redondo Beach. This 3-day meeting will be in the Conference Room of our Main Library, beginning Wednesday. On Thursday, they will be deciding how to incorporate the Measure C amendments into our Local Coastal Program. Join us in support of these changes that every District in Redondo Beach approved in the March 2017 election.
Revitalizing our waterfront without supersizing is more a practice than a destination, but I know that I, and many others remain steadfast in that goal. At this historic moment, we are all looking forward to creating a path that residents and future elected officials can follow to make that a reality. Our future starts now.
by Judy Rae