After more than three hours of intense discussion on Tuesday night, the Redondo Beach City Council endorsed the AES driven Harbor Village Initiative with a 3-2 vote.
Mayor Steve Aspel said while he’s not particularly fond of initiatives, the purpose of the city endorsing the proposal is so that AES will follow through on withdrawing its application from the California Public Utilities Commission for building a new power plant on the site. He said the council’s approval of the resolution enables the process to move forward.
AES has proposed transforming the existing power plant site into 85,000 square feet of mixed use space zoned for restaurants, art and cultural facilities, offices, and up to 600 single-family homes and 250 hotel rooms.
For the initiative to make it onto a March, 2015, ballot, AES must gather signatures from 15 percent of the city’s registered voters by mid November. If the voters approve the measure, and the 50-acre site is quickly sold or leased to a developer, the soonest dirt could move on the site would be 2019.
Opponents argue that AES would never receive approval for a new power plant at the site and that the city is moving too fast on the project without a master plan already in place.
District 2 representative Bill Brand and District 4 representative Steve Sammarco both opposed the proposal saying that a master plan is needed.
“I don’t like being blackmailed,” Brand said. “Nothing we do here is going to stop the process or help it. They will either get the signatures they need or not. The energy commission is already not happy with AES. They’ve been working hard for them to get an application to build another power plant. You know how they found out about (the Harbor Village Initiative), they were told to read the local paper. They did this behind closed doors.”
Brand doesn’t believe AES officials intended to get an application approved for a long-term contract to produce power. He said AES has applied to produce more than double the megawatts that is now allowed. AES has applied to rebuild three facilities producing 3,400 megawatts while the CPUC is only allowing 1,500 megawatts.
Brand believes the corporation is using the community’s desire to finally be rid of the power plant to increase the revenue that it would reap from the Harbor Village plans.
“AES should have included the city and community in the development of the plans. The community should demand a comprehensive master plan instead of endorsing this piecemealing,” he said.
Even if the initiative makes it to the ballot in the spring, Brand doesn’t believe the project as it has been proposed will come to fruition considering it would need further approval from the California Coastal Commission.
With CenterCal’s $200 million plan to revitalize and develop a total of 523,732 square feet at the waterfront, Brand doesn’t believe that Harbor Village will get commission approval. However Aspel said that CenterCal’s Environmental Impact Report, slated for completion next year, is including the future of the power plant site’s transformation into a mix use space.
Under the initiative, two distinct districts would be created at the site. There would be 85,000 square feet of mixed use along Harbor Drive. There would also be a low-density residential zone that would allow up to 600 new single-family homes, 250 hotel rooms, with a minimum of 20 percent being designated for permanent open space or green space. The proposal provides maximum development guidelines. No developer has signed on to the project. Supporters say once the initiative is approved by voters and CenterCal’s EIR is completed, that is when the city should develop a master plan, not prior to voter approval.
“We’ve been working on a plan that would enable us to close our Redondo Beach plant and revitalize the site in a way that allows us to receive fair value for our property.” AES spokesperson Eric Pendergraft said. “If approved by voters, the ‘Harbor Village Initiative’ would make this possible.
“The site would then be developed in accordance to zoning designations and requirements. Any specific project proposed under new zoning would need Council approval and complete a state environmental review. Also, the new land use and zoning plan would be subject to review by the California Coastal Commission.”
In addition, the proposed initiative requires the creation of a new pedestrian plaza fronting Harbor Drive, the continuation of the existing Veterans Parkway, a new tree-lined pedestrian promenade along Herondo Street and four acres of additional open space that would be used for a neighborhood park.
With council chambers packed with standing-room only on Tuesday night, nearly 40 residents presented their thoughts and ideas regarding the Harbor Village Initiative.
Opponents said if the development is successful, it will create major traffic nightmares with areas of gridlock extending from Pacific Coast Highway and spilling onto the waterfront.
After approving the resolution for the initiative, Aspel said if AES fails to pull its application to build a new facility on the site that council will rescind its endorsement of the proposal.