With an overflow crowd watching on monitors outside city hall chambers, Redondo Beach's Planning Commission voted 6-1 to approve a massive redevelopment of the ailing South Bay Galleria. The hearing, which lasted five hours, was attended by more than 100 residents equally mixed for and against the project.
While expected to be appealed to the City Council, the approval marked the first major hurdle for one of the city’s largest development projects in decades.
Commissioners approved a revised version of the project with Australian developer QIC who had held dozens of community meetings. The proposal shifted a 300-unit apartment building from its original proposal on Kingsdale Avenue to Hawthorne Boulevard and lowered heights of a parking garage bordering Kingsdale.
In addition to requiring signage during construction, slated to begin in 2020, commissioners demanded a 24-hour response line and a prohibition on storing building materials on the street.
Open space/real grass
For the seven acres of open space, commissioners preferred real grass instead of artificial turf, and will require conditional use permits for massage parlors, bars, cocktail lounges and thrift shops. Massage parlors must be part of a day spa and any thrift store must be high-end, commissioners said.
In a series of new renderings, developers presented a mixed-use center where people could relax on the grass and visit with friends in an outdoor retail environment.
Commissioner Jennifer Glad said she appreciated the amount of open space and the proposed public art features children could play on while parents sat at a nearby coffee shop or restaurant.
"I’m very impressed with the project. You guys have done a phenomenal job in soliciting community feedback and responding to the community," Glad said. "The amount of green space has really changed."
Commissioner Rolf Strutzenberger was the only dissenting vote. A motion by Strutzenberger for more time to examine the project failed to get a second.
Still too large?
Mayor Bill Brand in comments to his supporters on Facebook said he was shocked the commission was able to vote on the project after a single hearing.
“Shocking that they would approve such a large project in only one public hearing. Will be interesting to see if anyone appeals within 10 days. Otherwise, their decision is final,” Brand said.
So far, the city had not received an appeal on the project, though it's widely expected.
Resident Doug Boswell said while he supported revitalizing the Galleria, he thought the project was just too large, He wanted the residential component, up to 300 apartment units, eliminated.
“The Galleria has a problem now and we really need this project to be successful. Many people are afraid to go there,” Boswell said. “Now we’re going to redevelop this and it’s like overkill.”
Lawndale left out
At one point during the hearing officials from Lawndale complained they had not been properly consulted on the project, which lies at their city’s border. Attorneys representing Lawndale threatened a lawsuit claiming the Environmental Impact report was insufficient and the project violated the city’s general plan.
"Your nearest neighbor of Lawndale will be directly impacted. They will absorb traffic but will not benefit. This has not been analyzed in the EIR,” said attorney William Wynder.
Lawndale community development director Sean Moore said Redondo Beach staff should have contacted them, but did not.
“Not once has staff contacted Lawndale, yet Lawndale will receive the vast majority of irreversible impacts,” Moore said.
Following a break in the hearing, Redondo Beach officials countered those claims. They had been in contact with Lawndale since February, they said. A meeting with Lawndale representatives six weeks ago was cancelled at the last moment. They rescheduled the meeting last week.
Redondo Beach Community Development Director Aaron Jones said the project did not require a variance since the height limit of the buildings do not violate the general plan. Other claims they made about the EIR were unfounded, Jones said.
“We always work cooperatively with adjacent cities,” Jones said. “Lawndale’s opportunities have been available. They submitted a multiple page comment letter and we responded with 60 pages. Lawndale had many opportunities. When we asked them to suggest mitigation measures they felt would reduce or eliminate impacts, they were unable to identify any mitigation measures.”
When it's completed by 2023, the project is expected to revitalize a retail mall that’s increasingly becoming obsolete. The new South Bay Galleria would add roughly 330,000 square feet of new indoor uses, including retail space, an open air dining area with parkland, a 300-unit apartment building, a 150-room hotel and 50,000 square feet of office space on the southwest corner of the 30-acre site.
As part of its approval, the planning commission authorized up to 175,000 square feet of office space so that if the developer chooses to include more in lieu of retail, they would not need to seek additional approval.
The project also includes a 37-megawatt solar photovoltaic array on rooftops.
“Our specialty is repositioning real estate to stand the test of time and align with the value of the community,” said QIC’s Ken Lee. “We contend that retail is not dead but poorly curated retail is vulnerable.”