The Redondo Beach City Council has lifted its controversial moratorium on mixed-use development projects, setting the stage for another high-density housing complex.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, a motion to extend the prohibition on mixed-use developments drew a favorable 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Laura Emdee and John Gran voting against it. The measure failed, however, because it was an urgency ordinance and needed a 4/5th vote of the council to pass.
Although no applications were submitted in the past year for a mixed-use development, the door is now wide open come Aug. 13 when the current moratorium expires, according to Aaron Jones, community development director.
The mixed-use zones in the city, which allow 35 residential units per acre with retail space on the ground floor, exist in the north along Artesia Boulevard between Aviation Boulevard and Blossom Avenue and in the south along Pacific Coast Highway between Garnet and Pearl streets, and PCH south of Palos Verdes Boulevard.
On Tuesday, Jones presented the council with potential consequences of extending the moratorium for another year, including the city losing its permit authority for local housing projects.
The council first passed an urgency ordinance barring mixed-use projects for 45 days in August 2017 then a month later extended it for a year. Since then, several laws passed in Sacramento could further restrict the city’s local authority if it is not in a position to meet its housing demands.
“If a developer were to approach the city with a project with about half the units affordable units, he could compel the city to provide appropriate zoning for that project,” Jones said. “Another potential challenge could be an interested party could bring an action to compel the city to rezone a site for projects within 60 days.”
In passing the urgency ordinance last year, city officials reasoned they would study the city’s zoning in an effort to update the general plan. But the work of the General Plan Advisory Committee, the citizen group charged with updating the plan, was extended for another year.
Over the past year, Redondo’s mixed-use moratorium became the subject of political debate in Sacramento where politicians want to tackle the state’s housing shortage.
“They are propagating stories that we are a bunch of NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard).” Nehrenheim said. “But it’s not NIMBYism. We just don’t have any jobs here.”
Nehrenheim decried the One South mixed-use project nearly completed along Pacific Coast Highway, passed before the moratorium took effect. The project does not contain any qualified low-income housing and a one-bedroom unit sells for about $700,000. Previously, the site was occupied by more than 50 unit commercial development called Sea Breeze Plaza.
“It creates this imbalance where we kicked out all these jobs and instead we are getting 52 condos, a minimum amount of commercial and the maximum amount of residential density,” Nehrenheim said.
The Legado project at the corner of Palos Verdes Boulevard and PCH, getting ready to break ground soon after a contracted fight with the city, is the only other mixed-use project currently in the works in Redondo with the exception of the proposed South Bay Galleria development in a unique regional commercial zone.
Exactly how much housing demand the city should be planning to meet lies in the city’s housing element approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Since January, the city has been out of compliance due to the mixed-use moratorium, based on a letter from Jennifer Seeger, the department's assistant deputy director, addressed to City Manager Joe Hoefgen.
The state agency sets Regional Housing Need Allocations, the number of new housing units each city is prepared to provide by 2023. In Redondo, that number is 1,394 units, 595 of which should be deemed affordable or low-income, according to the state.
Redondo Beach officials have taken issue with its RHNA number, lobbying the state agency for a reduction. Extending the mixed-use moratorium would not help its chances of winning that argument, according to Gran.
“We are opening ourselves up to risk of not having a say on our housing,” Gran said. “If that right is taken away from us that’s not a good thing for us as a whole. We would have won a battle but lost the war.”
Councilmember Christian Horvath said he felt it was worthwhile to extend the moratorium and take the risk. But in the end, he was voted down.
“The moratorium is our ability to take a pause. That’s all it is,” Horvath said. “I don’t want to get sued by the state, but at the same time I don’t want to lose our ability to finish this pause. In the great expanse of time, it’s really just a blip.”