Redondo Beach forum for mayor, city attorney

The candidates for the Redondo Beach mayor's office, Incumbent Bill Brand, and challengers Chris Voisey and Michael Ian Sachs participate in a virtual zoom debate. Candidates for the mayoral and city attorney races joined in a virtual debate hosted by the League of Women Voters, the Easy Reader newspaper and NuVoodoo Media Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 to address voters on these key issues. (Courtesy of HermosaOne)

Commercial redevelopment, a controversial powerplant and an aging waterfront remain top concerns among candidates for Redondo Beach mayor and city attorney ahead of the March 2 elections.

Three of the four mayoral candidates and the two candidates for city attorney discussed those issues during a virtual debate hosted by the League of Women Voters, the Easy Reader newspaper and website HermosaOne Wednesday, Feb. 10. Residents submitted questions in advance.

Mayoral Race

Incumbent Bill Brand, Chris Voisey, a chief technology officer and community volunteer; and Michael Ian Sachs, a retired Chevron employee who ran for mayor in 2017, participated in Wednesday’s debate. Shayne Hartman, a proposal analyst at Northrop Grumman and the fourth mayoral candidate, did not.

Some of the city’s major projects that have moved slowly, faced years of legal disputes or been challenged by the state —  the AES powerplant, the waterfront, the South Bay Galleria mall renovations — came up for discussion during the debate, with Brand touting them and other candidates criticizing how slowly they’ve moved along.

The AES Redondo Beach power plant, for example, was slated to shut down at the end of last year because of a state prohibition, adopted in 2010, on drawing in seawater to cool power-generating facilities.

But then the State Water Resources Control Board decided to extend the life of the power plant in the city for one year and three others around Southern California for at least three more years. Redondo jointly filed a lawsuit with Hermosa Beach against the California water board, arguing the agency violated state environmental law when granting the extension, Brand said in December.

“Things are lined up for the next 4 years.” Brand said. “And I think with proper collaboration with the state and the county, the powerplant is coming down very soon.

“It was supposed to be a month ago,” he added. “It got a year extension, but we got it down from three years.”

In 2019, the California Natural Resources Agency awarded the city $4.8 million to help buy a portion of the AES power plant site for wetlands restoration and to create parkland once the station is decommissioned.

“The AES site is going to be one of our biggest opportunities (for open spaces),” Brand said, “as well as when the powerlines come down.”

But Voisey criticized what he said was the city’s lack of plans for the site.

“The powerplant we’ve heard plans for 20 years,” Voisey said, “and I’ve still yet to see any plan put anywhere in what we’re going to do with it.”

Sachs had a similar stance.

“We have to do something,” he said. “There is a legacy here of the next four years that the mayor is going to have.”

Sachs, meanwhile, lamented how much it will cost to turn the site into a park — while saying the city needs to do so nonetheless.

“This land is very expensive to just have a park there,” Sachs said. “I believe the residents know that this will cost them, but we need it for quality of life.”

Another piece of land the city has long sought to redevelop is its aging waterfront. The city recently won another legal battle against CenterCal Properties, the developer that wanted to rebuild along the town’s coastline.

In 2017, voters passed Measure C, which imposed limits on waterfront developments and the City Council also canceled its lease agreement with CenterCal, which led to the breach-of-contract lawsuit.

“We have to find a solution,” Voisey said. “The voters have spoken. Lets work with what we have. We may have to make some amendments but let’s work on it.”

One project that has progressed, though, is the renovation of the Galleria mall, slated to break ground in 2022. The shopping center brings in massive tax revenue to the city.

“I pushed the redevelopment of the Galleria, a 1.6 million square foot project,” Brand said. “Biggest project ever approved in Redondo Beach.”

Voisey, while favoring that project, suggested that it’s not progressing effectively enough. 

“The Galleria is moving along; we are looking at some changes, but we have to get this on track,” Voisey said. “This is a property that is helping us when it’s on track.”

Sachs, for his part, also favored the project while wanting it to move faster.

City Attorney

Whichever candidate becomes city attorney — incumbent Michael Webb or Harden Sooper, chair of Redondo Beach’s Public Safety Commission — will also have a lot of work to do, including on the AES plant and the CenterCal lawsuits.

“The waterfront is critical to our identity as a city,” Sooper said. “And we’ve been mired in a legal mess for the past four years.

“Whether you wanted what CenterCal was going to build or not,” he added, “we haven’t achieved anything except for a jumbled lawsuit mess.”

Webb, though, discussed the success his office has had with some of these legal issues.

“The waterfront litigation is a result of changing priorities, of a changing council that was voted in by the residents,” Webb said. “And that’s led to a lawsuit.

“We’ve had great success in the litigation so far,” he added.

The city, Webb said, celebrated a victory in the AES litigation with the decrease of plant’s extension from three years to one.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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