Redondo Beach city council candidates discussed a wide range of issues — from the environment to a public mask mandate — at a public virtual forum on Thursday, Feb. 11.
There is one seat available in each of three districts:
- District 1 covers the southern end of the city, from Torrance Boulevard. Incumbent Nils Nehrenheim is challenged by school board member Brad Waller.
- District 2 covers the northern portion of the city's coastline, including the King Harbor area and marina. It is currently represented by incumbent Todd Loewenstein. He is challenged by Paul David Moses, a public art advocate and Erika Snow Robinson, a real estate group's director of operations.
- In District 4, which covers the northern end of the city, but south of District 5, including the South Bay Galleria, has incumbent John Gran challenged by Zein Obagi, Jr., an employment attorney.
Residents submitted questions in advance and the forum was moderating by the League of Women Voters, the HermosaOne.com website and the Easy Reader newspaper.
On the topic of environment, candidates where asked how to reduce Redondo Beach’s transportation greenhouse emissions and how to become more climate resistant.
Nehrenheim said several factors including creating more office space and promoting electric vehicles and bikes can help the traffic gridlock leaving South Redondo in the morning and returning in the evening.
“About 93% of our commuters go to downtown L.A., El Segundo and Torrance,” Nehrenheim said.
Waller said adding more solar projects in the city would make a big impact as well as making the city more walkable.
“While with Redondo Beach Unified School District, we installed solar, replacing $500,000 a year worth of electricity generation,” Waller said. “So I would really want to push having solar be installed at city parks and other facilities.”
While some car trips can be replaced by walking or bicycling, Moses said that works for running short errands, but it is not feasible for many of those who have to commute.
“There is the option to create jobs here in Redondo Beach, we really only have a couple spots to do that in North Redondo by the aerospace area," Moses said. "There’s a lot of hurdles, and we need to get rid of those hurdles."
Future sea level rise due to climate change is an issue the candidates said needed to be explored as well as to ensure there are adequate water supplies at an affordable price in the future.
But some candidates said that desalination is not the answer. A proposed desalination plant is stalled in El Segundo due to a lawsuit filed by the environmental group LA Waterkeeper in December 2019.
Loewenstein said he is opposed because desalination is “disruptive to marine life” and “incredibly expensive.”
“They've been shutting down the plants in Australia, the one up in Santa Barbara has not been helpful,” Loewenstein said.
Obagi said residents need to get educated on how to collect rainwater.
“The city needs to really take a focus on how we're going to capture what little rainwater we do get, including through the residents and reuse that on the parks, to keep them green,” Obagi said. “Now when it comes to the waterfront and the harbor, we're going to have to take that into consideration as we think of revitalizing the Pier area and the harbor that there is going to be rising waters.”
The candidates were asked whether wearing a face mask in public places due to the threat of COIVID-19 should be mandatory.
Manhattan Beach requires mask wearing across the city, while Hermosa only requires masks be worn at all times on the beach when not in the water, on the greenbelt, on the Strand, at all parks, in Pier Plaza and in the downtown area. The cities also charge fines for violators.
“If you have to wear masks inside, okay great, but wearing masks all the time?,” Robinson said. “Let’s just be safe and let’s use some common sense."
Gran is also opposed to a mandate.
“We should encourage it, similar to what we actually did here on our City Council, is that we put the word out … wear a mask, do that for your neighbors do that for your families,” Gran said.
Waller, who has an office in the Riviera Village, said he is in favor of a mask mandate.
“You can't go 10 seconds without passing somebody within a couple feet,” Waller said. “Along the Esplanade. There's people all the time within a couple feet of each other. So yes, it's outside… risk is far lower. But I would rather do something that makes a very small effect, but it saves some people.”
In September 2019, Redondo Beach City Council approved a citywide smoking ban in public places, but allowed certain exceptions for designated area, residential properties and moving vehicles. The candidates were questioned on whether it should be expanded to some multi-use dwellings.
Nehrenheim said enforcement of a smoking ban in apartment buildings or condos is an issue. Other beach cities haven't had luck, he said.
“I've written letters for condo associations to get them to write… into their own bylaws, no smoking. They've been successful at that,” Nehrenheim said.
Gran said the City Council did discuss a smoking ban for multi-use dwellings, but it did not pass.
“I think it's worth actually talking about, and seeing if that is something that we can pass regards to having smoke going from one apartment to another or in a common area,” Gran said.
Loewenstein said there area a lot of reasons to ban smoking but the “problem becomes when you start infringing on people’s individual liberties in their own homes.”
“I feel like we could potentially be subject to a lawsuit from somebody who feels that they have the right to do what they need to do in their own homes,” Loewenstein said. “So I personally think it would be best left to condo associations, homeowner’s associations, landlords, to a vote within an apartment or a condo complex.”
Robinson said a ban would be an overreach and “impossible to enforce.” She said let the landlords and homeowner’s association enforce themselves.
“You start going into people's homes and dictating things, what's next?,” Robinson said. “You can't drink a Coke, because you're going to have a heart attack?”
Obagi disagreed because of the “detrimental effect” smoking could have on children.
“They end up developing allergies, if they're if they're exposed to secondhand smoke,” Obagi said. “It can get absorbed in the walls of the past from window to window and alike. So there should be absolutely no smoking in a structure where you are bordering another stretch should occur outside where it can be deception where it can drift away and away from the building.”
Moses, who owns a multi-unit building, said he despises the tobacco industry and does not allow smoking or vaping in his building. He said that is easy to do in Redondo Beach because a lot of people don’t smoke.
“The problem becomes, when the city mandates that they can't have smoking inside of a building, the building owners will come back and say, you're limiting who I can rent to, that's an instant lawsuit,” Moses said.
The City Council also discussed issues about the importance of the availability of councilmembers to their constituents, South Redondo Beach versus North Redondo Beach issues, as well as affordable housing in the city.