As noted on this site and elsewhere, I try to stay away from political comment unless it is hyper local politics and related to either a) what are our homes worth and going to be worth, and b) how enjoyable is it to live around here and what are the amenities.
There's a few stories in the news lately that could affect Redondo Beach home values and overall quality of life so I am writing about them all in one place for my loyal readers who may want to know my thoughts and position on such things.
Before I get into what's trending, a few comments.
Since I am going through this exercise I also will state my position on each topic. If you disagree with me, I respect your right to do so. Let's all debate the issues and be kind to each other.
So, in no particular order:
Repurposing the Redondo Beach Power Plant and Edison Right-of-Way Land
Mayor Brand is trying to take "a more proactive approach for the community to get involved upfront and understand the process and the options going into redevelopment and repurposing” to what has been one of many ongoing and still unresolved issues.
Brand will be part of a panel discussion featuring land use and design experts including Larry Kosmont, the City of Redondo Beach’s real estate consultant, and Richard Wilson, a Chicago-based architect.
Brand met Wilson at the Mayors’ Institute on City Design West conference, in Alaska, earlier this month. Brand was among a small group of mayors invited to discuss planning and design challenges in their cities.
His presentation detailing the city’s waterfront and the AES power plant drew Wilson’s attention, leading the architect to come to Redondo strictly for the discussion.
Wilson has worked on similar large-scale redevelopments in Chicago, including Millennium Park, which was built atop railroad tracks on the northeastern corner of existing Grant Park. The area has since generated “literal billions of dollars in tax and economic development returns,” Wilson said.
“I’m welcoming public discussion, sister city to sister city, to talk about what we’ve all accomplished,” Wilson said. “To talk about our processes and mistakes we’ve made along the way, and to encourage people to build discussion about what’s possible.”
Redondo has had a power plant at that waterfront site for more than 100 years. In 2020 the plant is slated to close down in accordance with state regulations, leading AES to market the plant.
The city has attempted to take part in redeveloping the land twice in the last 20 years; first, with 2002’s Heart of the City project, then in 2015’s Harbor Village plan. Both fell after facing significant resident pushback. The development wars eventually led to a City Charter amendment requiring a public vote on major zoning changes.
As AES announced its sale plans, the city became involved again, winning county support to create an overlay tax district in the area generating money to improve the land for public use. A buyer, however, has not yet been announced which is not surprising because of all the issues.
Brand has cautioned that this is not intended to be a divisive debate space, but an educational seminar. He also acknowledges that, while the aim is to build a public park that recaptures the area’s natural wetland heritage, development is likely to be included, and the city will have to work with the land’s new property owner.
“In all likelihood, it’s going to be some sort of public-private partnership,” Brand said. “But it’s going to be a park with some development in it, not a development plan with some park.”
MY POSITION ON THE POWER PLANT
To start with, I can't believe that after all the discussions we haven't as a City come to a workable format. How about this: neither side gets 100% of what they want. Yes, I know that is out of kilter with where politics in this country is today, but come on friends and neighbors. That land is simply too valuable to expect, notwithstanding a deep pocket donor, for it to be turned into a park for your dogs to run free and sit around the camp fire. On the other hand, over developing it with lots of new construction to totally monetize it is probably never going to happen.
By building some new and most likely very expensive homes, we bring more property tax dollars our way and maybe even help drive surrounding home values up. And by leaving lots of nice wide open space we have a great ocean view park which is an amenity that adds to the quality of life. This should be easy!
BAN ON SMOKING IN REDONDO BEACH
Recently, the Redondo Beach City Council unanimously agreed to consider an ordinance that would bar smoking in all public areas within the city and require a local retail license to sell cigarettes and vaporizers. Currently, the city only bans smoking on the beach and there is no special tobacco retail license. Truthfully, I always assumed that a license was needed to sell cigarettes and I am just catching up on this vaporizer thing. Shows what I know, maybe a little more than Jon Snow!
If the council agrees to a comprehensive public smoking ban at a future meeting, Redondo Beach would join the neighboring beach cities of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach which have already implemented similar prohibitions.
Manhattan Beach passed a smoking ban in 2014 in all public areas, adding a local retail license a year earlier that also prohibits the sale of flavored vapor products except menthol and mint.
If the council in Redondo Beach approves a similar local retail license for selling tobacco products, it would join roughly 140 other cities in California, 44 of them in Los Angeles County, according to Aaron Jones, Redondo Beach community development director.
The council gave direction to staff to come back with an ordinance. While most of the council was in agreement, debate hinged on whether to include a ban on certain flavors of vaporizers, which ultimately was excluded.
Councilmember John Gran said he was not inclined to go so far as putting limits on flavored vapor products. “I would like to encourage a lighter step,” Gran said.
While about 10 residents who spoke at the council meeting supported assertions by health officials that public smoking bans reduce the rates of smoking, at least one resident complained that such a law would infringe on personal liberty.
“It’s the fact that you want to pass a law to control another thing and you keep passing laws to control something,” said a resident. “This all goes back to expanding government.”
“I understand that argument about personal responsibility, but what’s missing is the cost related to smoking related illnesses,” said Councilmember Todd Loewenstein. “It affects the economy and it’s something that’s clearly a societal problem.”
Several local tobacco retailers and vape shops said on Tuesday that barring their ability to sell flavored products would hurt their businesses.
Because of its lack of a public ban and recent data from the survey, Redondo Beach received a failing grade from the American Lung Association.
When the ordinance for the public ban and retail license comes back for the council’s approval, details will need to be ironed out such as how much to charge for a permit and what restrictions the city will put in place such as how close tobacco retailers can be from a school etc.
MY POSITION ON THE PROPOSED SMOKING BAN
I am totally for this. Full disclosure, I am NOT a smoker and never have been. My Mother was and she died from COPD so basically I don't understand why anyone smokes. If there is one things Doctors can agree on these days it is that smoking is bad for you and makes almost any condition worse.
Having said that, if you want to smoke in the privacy of your home or in your backyard, I agree that is your right to do so. As for public places however, there is enough data stating that second hand smoke is bad that I don't think the smokers among us need to do so in public places where we are also inhaling their smoke.
As for the retail license and vape, no position. As I stated above I just assumed one was needed. As for certain flavors of vaporizers, give me a break. Too much government.
Last word on smoking: California already has state wide regulations that supersede any city or county.
SOUTH BAY GALLERIA REDEVELOPMENT
So the battle of this is still going on. At this point, On October 2nd there's another hearing so by the time you read this the news may be outdated. But that's true of almost all news these days.
There are currently four appeals filed against the project including one by the city of Lawndale. (The 30-acre mall is in Redondo Beach, but borders Lawndale along Artesia Boulevard.)
Lawndale officials voiced their discontent over traffic issues and the lack of communication with officials in Redondo Beach.
The developer has already promised multiple road improvements to surrounding intersections, but Lawndale is requesting more.
The development would create “significant, unavoidable traffic impacts” at three intersections, according to the project’s environmental study. But Redondo Beach Community Development Director Aaron Jones said virtually any new development would impact those intersections.
“We are looking out for the residents and the people going to and from the galleria,” the Mayor of Lawndale stated. “The whole point is to improve traffic flow.”
The proposed project would revamp the 971,000 square-foot galleria by improving the existing shopping center and adding an additional 600,000 square feet of development. The project will add an outdoor retail and dining space, a 150-room hotel, a 300-unit apartment building and up to 175,000 square feet of office space.
A spokesman for the developer declined to comment on the project beyond saying the company is looking forward to the hearing.
Representatives for the developer have previously said they made several concessions during the design process as a result of input from residents, including reducing the number of apartment units from 600 to 300 and relocating a building away from a residential area.
But while the developer agreed to consider office space in lieu of some retail, the company did not specify a specific amount.
A resident who lives nearby and also filed an appeal of the project, said the lack of specifics with regards to the proposed office component was one of the reasons he wanted the Redondo Beach City Council to hear the matter.
If it were up to him, he said, he would prefer there be no residential component and the overall project scaled down. “It’s just too big.”
MY POSITION ON THE GALLERIA PROJECT
Build, baby, build!
We have a blueprint for something that will work, just look to The Point in El Segundo. Popular and jam packed from the day it opened. Yes, it will create more traffic and congestion (full disclosure, I live nearby on a street that will probably get a lot more traffic). But it will also create more revenue for the City of Redondo Beach which can be invested into other improvements.
And consider that if we don't keep up with other retail improvement going on, for example Manhattan Village, we are just giving away valuable revenue that could help our city to our neighbors to the west.
METRO GREEN LINE EXTENSION TO TORRANCE
If you are not familiar with what's going on with this topic, here's the background.
The Metro Green Line train has been carrying riders to and from Redondo Beach since 1995 and there are plans afoot for it to travel four miles further ending in Torrance.
Recently, Metro’s Board of Directors moved forward with two possible routes for the train. Both would extend the line from the existing Redondo Beach station to the under-construction Torrance Transit Center, passing through the city of Lawndale along the way.
One possible route, referred to by Metro as “alternative one,” would use an existing rail corridor to get there, simplifying the construction process. It would stop just once on the way, at a proposed transit center in Redondo Beach. If you live in the eastern reaches of North Redondo now, you are well aware of where the tracks currently are and may (like yours truly) even hear the trains from time to time at night.
The other option, “alternative three,” would take the train down Hawthorne Boulevard, stopping at the South Bay Galleria before continuing to the transit center in Torrance. (Metro will no longer consider two other options.)
According to Metro’s initial estimates, a train running along the Hawthorne Boulevard route would cost between $110 million and $327 million more to build than the option using existing right-of-way. But it could mean slightly more riders; the agency predicts an additional 300 daily boardings with the Hawthorne alternative.
Residents of Lawndale pushed back against both routes for the project, arguing that the benefits of improved access to LA’s rail network would be outweighed by the inconvenience of construction on the light rail and the eventual noise of the train passing through residential areas. Neither route would have a stop within the city.
“The project alternative that the City of Lawndale would want is no project,” said Lawndale community development director Sean Moore. If the project does move forward, he told the board, it should be underground. Moving some or all of the project underground would likely increase the cost of construction significantly.
Board member Janice Hahn, who represents the South Bay as a county supervisor, said that she was “trying to listen to everyone’s concerns and build consensus.” But she also stressed that she was unwilling to support efforts to stop the project. “I want to build it in the next decade,” said Hahn.
Board member and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said there was still time to make the project more palatable for Lawndale residents.
“If anyone feels not listened to then we’re failing,” he said. (Sounds like a politician.)
MY POSITION ON GREEN LINE EXPANSION
Have you seen the very positive effect the Expo line has had on home prices in mid city? If you haven't, it has been substantial. So I am for this of course. Not that it matters because it is happening anyway.
I totally get it that the City of Lawndale isn't overjoyed - particularly considering that there won't be a stop there.
As for which route, I'll have to leave that to the smart kids in the room. On the one hand, it would seem to me that Hawthorne Blvd is the natural place it should run simply because it would traverse less residential areas overall. On the other, I'm all for using existing routes. If I had to make a call, I would say Hawthorne Blvd with a stop at the newly redeveloped Galleria Mall tying all these stories together.
And how about a better name for the Galleria?