Waterfront developers sue over BeachLife deal
by David Mendez
A company that wants to redevelop Redondo’s Waterfront has sued the city, challenging its 10-year agreement with the BeachLife music festival, which dominated the area this past weekend. The lawsuit also seeks to protect the company’s contentious redevelopment plan from restrictions approved by voters in 2017’s ballot Measure C.
Redondo Beach Waterfront LLC, a subsidiary of CenterCal Development and Westport Capital, filed this most recent lawsuit against the City of Redondo Beach in L.A. County Superior Court on April 18. The suit argues that the city’s agreement with BeachLife promoters Sanford Ventures violates the Agreement for Lease of Property and Infrastructure Financing — otherwise known as the ALPIF — which was approved in early 2017.
The developer also hopes that the suit will prevent its Vesting Tentative Tract Map from expiring in October. The VTTM, which was approved in late 2016, prevents the voter-approved harbor rezoning plan from applying to the project. Should the VTTM expire, the land — and any subsequent developments to the land — would then necessarily be developed under the more-restrictive Measure C zoning that was approved in March 2017.
“That protects us in a number of ways…they can’t apply any law that wasn’t in effect when the [VTTM] was approved,” said Betty Shumener, attorney for RBW LLC. The lawsuit, she said, essentially stops the clock on the VTTM’s expiration. “We’re saying, we spent between $14 million to $20 million working on plans to obtain and protect the entitlements the city asked us to obtain. We can’t risk that disappearing because the city doesn’t want to suspend the time.”
According to Shumener, the developer informally requested that the city extend the time on the VTTM’s expiration, and that the city didn’t respond, leading to this lawsuit.
The ALPIF states that the City shall not enter into lease agreements for portions of its affected parcels, including the Seaside Lagoon and marina parking lot, unless the leases have been approved by the developer, and can be terminated with six months’ prior notice. The lawsuit argues that the city’s 10-year contract with Sanford is a lease in all but name.
The deal, as approved by the city, is titled an agreement for special event services and a “revocable license for the use of real property.”
Redondo Beach said that RBW LLC breached the ALPIF after the developer sued the city in federal court — the agreement stated that lawsuits regarding the project must be filed in L.A. County Superior Court. The City also argued that RBW LLC owes it more than $1 million in reimbursement costs for studies and other services. Those breaches led to the City terminating the ALPIF in November 2017.
However, while the matter has been in litigation, the City has stopped extending or issuing new leases on harbor property that is otherwise subject to the ALPIF until the litigation is closed, either through judgement or possible settlement.
This suit, Shumener noted, doesn’t prevent the city or RBW LLC from reaching a settlement agreement.
“Frankly, because we’re talking settlement, that’s why we asked the city informally, so we wouldn’t have to file another lawsuit, to stop the clock,” she said. “It’s not to facilitate, drive or deter a settlement. It’s to protect our rights while settlement negotiations are underway or, if we go to litigation, while litigation is underway.”
Redondo Beach City Attorney Michael Webb said that the City Council has unanimously directed him to defend against the lawsuit, and declined further comment on the existing litigation.