In a cross town squabble that's rare in the South Bay beach cities, Redondo Beach is demanding neighboring Hermosa Beach return more than $400,000 set aside to design a storm water capture system, a project that has since fallen apart.
Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand wrote a letter earlier this month to officials in Hermosa Beach demanding the return of $431,615.
In June, Hermosa Beach indicated it intended to return roughly $308,000, since $123,000 had already been spent on designs and planning, an expense Brand in his letter called a "waste."
"We cannot imagine what justification Hermosa Beach could have for refusing to return those funds immediately," Brand wrote.
It is still not clear, weeks now after the letter was sent, what Hermosa Beach plans to do about the matter.
“As you know, we received the letter last Tuesday (July 16) and are evaluating it internally," Hermosa Beach Mayor Stacey Armato said in a statement issued Wednesday July, 24. "We continue to be optimistic about working collaboratively with our city partners to accomplish our storm water goals.”
In a letter to Redondo Beach dated June 7, Hermosa Beach suggested that Redondo Beach dissolve a Memorandum of Understanding the cities had to work with one another on the project. But that stipulation Brand called "unacceptable."
The proposed project involved ripping up a section of the Hermosa Greenbelt from 2nd Street to Herondo Street to create a storm water system that filters out bacteria to improve quality of the water that eventually makes its way downhill to the beach. But opposition by local residents mounted and plans fell apart.
When enough people expressed disapproval for the Greenbelt location and one other proposed site at South Park in Hermosa, a grant application for $3 million was denied by the State Water Resources Control Board. The total project would have cost an estimated $7.3 million.
Torrance and Manhattan Beach have also contributed to the design phase and previously agreed to fund portions of the project — a formula that was decided based on how much storm water from each city ended up in the Herondo Avenue drain. Redondo Beach agreed to pay the largest portion of the cost at 50.8%, Torrance at 33.1%, Hermosa at 13.6% and Manhattan Beach at 2.5%.
The planning process had already spent $234,000, which was broken down by the same formula — roughly $118,000 from Redondo, $77,000 from Torrance, $31,000 from Hermosa and $5,800 from Manhattan Beach. Neither Manhattan Beach or Torrance has demanded their money back in full as Redondo has.
The danger of not moving forward with the infiltration project, according to Brand, is that Redondo or Hermosa falls out of compliance with its storm water runoff requirements by the regulating agency.
"We are particularly concerned that your unilateral decision not to pursue the Greenbelt Infiltration Project will almost certainly jeopardize our City's compliance status with the Regional Board, cause our City to spend more than it otherwise would have done to meet the reduction goals of our MS4 (storm water runoff) Permits, and potentially set our City in a position where it incurs penalties or fines for untimely compliance with those requirements," Brand wrote.
The storm drain has been identified as a “chronic source of elevated bacteria levels," which the infiltration project was aimed at improving.
—Reporter Michael Hixon contributed to this story.