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Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand speaking at a state of the city address in December, 2018. (file photo)

The City of Redondo Beach continues to be a great place to live.

Few cities have our weather, friendly vibe, exceptional public safety operations, top-notch public schools, beautiful beaches and a low level of crime.

The fact that the City maintains its charm and character while still being one of the most densely populated cities on the California coast is truly remarkable and certainly a testament to its citizens and the grass roots activists who work to keep it that way.

Opportunities and challenges

While we managed to protect the character and livability of the City, there are many challenges threatening our quality of life that require our constant attention: City finances are precarious, homelessness is increasing,  traffic is worsening, redevelopment of key areas is needed, developer lawsuits are continuing, schools are at capacity and the state government in Sacramento continues to erode our ability to control our own destiny by passing legislation that strips our ability to control the zoning and character of our own town.  

The most pressing problem facing the City is the looming increase to our employee pension obligations, which are projected to increase by $5 million over the next 5 years. In anticipation of these increased fiscal obligations, the City built up a $6.7 million reserve fund over the last 9 years.

We are far from alone in this predicament, as most California cities are facing this coming financial crunch. It will be the cities that acknowledge and prepare in advance that will be best positioned to meet this challenge.  

Redondo Beach has two very large opportunities to remake our town and increase the revenue side of our budget: The South Bay Galleria and the AES power plant site. 

South Bay Galleria 

The remaking of the South Bay Galleria began with City Council approval of a $1.6 million square foot redevelopment plan last January that is due to be completed in approximately four years. 

Despite the initial approval of the project by our Planning Commission—after only one meeting and virtually no concessions from the developer, Redondo Beach resident, Doug Boswell, filed an appeal of the project. This sent it to the City Council for further review.

Thanks to Mr. Boswell’s appeal, the City Council was able to secure an additional $2 million in upgrades for Artesia Boulevard, reduce the subdivision of the site from 59 parcels back to the original 21, secured another acre of public open space, a new skate park and double the amount of affordable housing (now 20%) in the 300 apartment units that will be constructed as part of the redevelopment.

This will be the largest development project Redondo Beach has ever seen.

It was not a perfect solution for everyone, but we struck a good compromise that got this project going, and we expect the new and improved Galleria will be successful for many years to come. Many thanks to both Doug Boswell and QIC, Inc. for working toward a solution that most of us could live with.    

AES power plant

The AES power plant continues to rarely operate and is due to permanently retire at the end of 2020.

As of this writing, the site remains in escrow with a private developer who has offered to sell a portion of the site to the City for public uses. Governmental organizations and public officials throughout the state are excited about this rare opportunity to transform a piece of the California coastline from industrial uses to wildlife restoration and other public uses such as parks and open space.  

To help achieve these goals, the City was recently awarded $4.8 million by the Natural Resources Agency to purchase some of this land, and $500,000 by the State Coastal Conservancy to assist with planning of the site.  The City, with help from the South Bay Parkland Conservancy, continues to apply for numerous funding opportunities to maximize areas for public use and habitat restoration.

The City is also working with the County of Los Angles to form an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District around the power plant site and the Southern California Edison (SCE) power corridor. Formation of this district will divert future increases in property tax revenue to this area for redevelopment and public use that meet the environmentally sustainable goals set by the City, County and the State. 

SCE power lines coming down

With the impending retirement of the AES plant, the City contracted with SCE to assess the need for the large power line corridor that extends several miles inland.  

Their report concluded that once the power plant is permanently retired, SCE will remove the 220kV power lines to Torrance City limits, and the 66kV power lines from the power plant to Prospect Avenue—both at no expense to the City!  

Removal of the power lines and redevelopment of the approximately 50-acre power plant property will significantly transform our waterfront, and provide world-class scenic and recreational opportunities for the entire South Bay. 

While we are very excited about this opportunity, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently recommended the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) consider extending operation of the AES site for an additional two-years.  

As I testified before the CPUC and the SWRCB, this densely populated area is NOT the place to be extending the life of a 60-70-year-old power plant that emits dangerous pollutants such as nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides and fine particulate matter that have proven to cause asthma attacks, heart attacks and cancer. 

In partnership with Hermosa Beach (a big thank you to Stacey Armato, former Mayor of Hermosa Beach for her help), the City is working and lobbying very hard to ensure this plant is not extended one day beyond its scheduled retirement date.

As you can imagine, we are all anxiously looking forward to what happens next, but know that whatever land-use changes are proposed will have to be approved by the voters of Redondo Beach thanks to Chapter XXVII of our City Charter that requires a vote of the people for any “major changes in allowable land uses.”  Stay tuned….

Waterfront litigation

Unfortunately, our waterfront continues to be tied-up in litigation with Redondo Beach Waterfront LLC – a partnership led by Gregory Geiger of Westport Capital and Fred Bruning of CenterCal Properties.  

We are continuing settlement negotiations while the various lawsuits work their way through the courts. These lawsuits are why we have not been able to ‘revitalize without supersizing’ our waterfront for going on three years now, not to mention the seven years wasted crafting a project that was way beyond the size and scope of what the residents wanted to see.

While the waterfront is still tied-up in litigation, the site has hosted popular events such as The BeachLife Festival. 

The three-day festival was the first of its kind in the South Bay where over 40 bands performed with headliner Willie Nelson closing out this great event. The full lineup for next May will be coming out on Jan. 15.

In addition, we hosted other events such as the third annual King of the Redondo Harbor Skateboard Championships with Tony Alva and Cindy Whitehead making appearances.  

The World Open Water Swim Association also held its annual event on our waterfront with 500 swimmers from all over the world competing including Haley Anderson and Jordon Wilimovsky, two Olympians who will compete for Team USA in Tokyo next year.  

All three events are returning in 2020. So, while we wait for revitalization of the entire waterfront, we’re going to have a lot of fun in the meantime.

In closing, I want thank everyone for their support, love, prayers and general well wishes after my diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer last June.

It was a shocker, as any cancer diagnosis always is, but your support meant a tremendous amount to me and my family and reminded me once again of the beautiful spirit of the people of the South Bay.

I’m very happy to report I’ve responded quite well to various treatments as my tumor has shrunk by 80% and my life returns to near normalcy.

As we start a new decade, think of what you can do to show kindness to a stranger, a friend, a loved one, or even someone you don’t like.

Great people make great cities, and great cities are made of great people.

Feel free to write or call anytime: bill.brand@redondo.org or (310) 809-4405, or attend the Mayor’s Year-end Update at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center on Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.

Happy New Decade to you all!   

Bill Brand

Mayor

Redondo Beach

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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