[Update] Galleria redevelopment approved by Redondo Planning Commission, to be appealed by Lawndale
by David Mendez
The South Bay Galleria redevelopment project is on track, despite objections from the City of Lawndale, the Galleria’s neighbor to the north. The Redondo Beach Planning Commission approved the project in a 6-1 decision at their April 19 meeting, following five hours of discussion.
As part of their decision, commissioners voted to increase allowable office space in response to resident demand, though there’s no guarantee that Galleria owner QIC will build up to the limit.
Lawndale officials say they may appeal the decision to the Redondo City Council.
“This is a center that contributes vital sales tax revenue to the City of Redondo Beach,” said Ken Lee, of the South Bay Galleria. “The indoor mall opened in 1985, and it was a great project. Tonight, we have the opportunity to make it the talk of the town again.”
Sales tax revenue from the Galleria has fallen significantly in recent years. In 2015, anchor tenant Nordstrom moved to Torrance’s renovated Del Amo Fashion Center. Empty storefronts have become more and more common within the mall that was once known as Redondo’s “economic engine.”
The approved redevelopment project would add 217,043 square feet of retail space, including stores, shops, restaurants and entertainment. A 150 room hotel is planned as well.
The plan also includes 300 apartment units, over the objections of many residents. In response to resident criticism, the Galleria agreed to move the apartment building from the site’s western boundary along Kingsdale Avenue to the eastern boundary on Hawthorne Boulevard. The western boundary will now have a mix of office and retail space.
Upgrading office space
Residents argued that office space would keep activity on the site throughout the day, and keep working residents in the city. According to a report presented to Redondo’s General Plan Advisory Committee, based on U.S. Census data, 30,627 residents – nearly half of the city’s population – commuted outside of the city for work in 2014.
“There’s a lack of quality office space in Redondo,” said resident Bob Pinzler. “Additional office space might help – maybe not a lot – but it might help mitigate some of the traffic issues the proposal doesn’t deal with.”
Based on those concerns, Commissioner Dan Elder proposed increasing the maximum allowable office space to 175,000 square feet, replacing the same amount of retail space in the project.
Over and over again, I heard from different residents and people in the area, explaining the synergy between [office space] and everything else,” Elder said in an interview. “It seemed reasonable to me… we’re adding flexibility to that component. It’s a minimal impact, but it really helps the community.”
Elder chose that figure based on a report from Redondo’s traffic consultant, Fehr and Peers, which determined that 175,000 square feet of office space would be the maximum before traffic was significantly increased.
It’s not yet clear how much office space will be included in the final project, however. According to QIC Executive Vice President John Alderson, a market study has been commissioned with real estate firm CBRE to determine how much office space the project could support.
“We are very pleased that the Planning Commission saw the value in a significant revitalization of the South Bay Galleria,” Alderson said in an email. “This milestone gives us the ability to move to the next stage of our detailed planning to deliver this development in a responsible and coordinated way.”
Lawndale looks for a remedy
Lawndale Community Development Director Sean Moore made an impassioned stand during the hearing, pointing out that the Environmental Impact Report’s identified “significant, unmitigatable impacts” to traffic at the intersection of Hawthorne Boulevard and Artesia Boulevard. Moore believes his city will bear the brunt of traffic.
Further, Lawndale believes Redondo’s height variance for the Galleria’s residential building violates Redondo’s General Plan, by exceeding the 60-foot height standard set for new buildings within the CR – Regional Commercial zoning.
“Redondo has left us out of the whole process,” said Lawndale Community Development Director Sean Moore. “They’ve given no consideration to us, to our city, to our residents and to our businesses.”
Redondo staff argues that the project would be consistent with the General Plan. Both Redondo Beach and Galleria staff noted that emails were exchanged between all three entities. A meeting between Lawndale and Redondo staff did not take place until shortly before the Planning Commission hearing.
Lawndale City Manager Steven Mandoki said his city is exploring filing an appeal, which would bring a hearing before the Redondo Beach City Council.
“There’s going to be significant impacts through both the City of Lawndale and Torrance, adding residential units and new commercial,” Mandoki said. “We’re very concerned and we want to make sure that the project is mitigated properly for the quality of life of our residents.”
Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Myers agreed, saying that he can only imagine the impact of new residential and retail development upon the area.
“Artesia is already an impacted boulevard, especially around the holidays,” Lawndale Mayor Robert Pullen-Miles said in an interview. “We’re concerned that not only will Artesia Boulevard become gridlocked, but that alternative routes through residential neighborhoods to circumvent the gridlock are sure to come.”
UPDATE, April 25, 4:15 p.m.:
In a special, closed session meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the Lawndale City Council unanimously decided to file an appeal against the South Bay Galleria redevelopment project.
The appeal will be filed within the week, according to Lawndale City Manager Steve Mandoki.