REDONDO BEACH — Advocates of a proposed ballot measure that calls for stringent regulation of development in the harbor area delivered petitions bearing more than 4,000 signatures to City Hall this week.
The petitions, which must be verified within 30 days by county election officials, would require the City Council to place the disputed measure before the voters by the 1987 municipal election.
City officials said the measure would qualify for the ballot if 3,589 signatures--or 10% of the city's registered voters--are found to be valid. City Clerk John Oliver said the initiative could appear on the ballot as early as November.
"This is the first step in making sure that some of the errors of the past are corrected in the future," said Mayor Barbara J. Doerr, who has promoted the initiative along with Oliver, Councilman Ray Amys and City Treasurer Alice DeLong.
"Part of the problem is that the sun does not hit a lot of the walkways along our beaches until late in the morning because of the high buildings," she said. "Some buildings extend right over the water. We are just looking for reasonable development."
The proposed measure would impose rigid parking, height and setback requirements on new development in the harbor area, including any reconstruction of buildings destroyed by fires, storms or other natural disasters.
The initiative has been vehemently opposed by businesses in the harbor area and by representatives of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce. Critics contend that it is a veiled attempt to block the proposed eight-story Inn at King Harbor, which has been opposed by Doerr and Amys as well as DeLong, who is seeking a council seat in the May 14 municipal election.
The 65-foot-high hotel would be built by developer Les Guthrie at the water's edge across the street from the Southern California Edison plant.
"It is an initiative that was not well thought out," said Ernie O'Dell, acting executive director of the chamber. "It does not cure anything. It just stops the possibility of Les Guthrie building his hotel, and thereby creates a great liability for all of the other businesses in the harbor area."
The initiative would require all structures in districts zoned for "commercial recreation" to be built at least 15 feet from streets and the water's edge, would ban any exceptions to the city's 38-foot height limit, and would apply existing commercial parking regulations to the commercial recreation zones. The zones extend from the city's northern border to as far south as the Elks Club near the intersection of Pearl Street and the Esplanade.
Currently, there are no restrictions on how close to the water's edge developers can build projects; exceptions to the height limit are allowed, and special parking provisions enable business to share parking and thereby avoid the stiffer commercial zone regulations.
The proposed ordinance specifically excludes the so-called Triangle redevelopment area--between Catalina Avenue, Harbor Drive, Pacific Avenue and Beryl Street. In late 1983, the City Council approved a 353-room Sheraton hotel for the site. The proposed hotel exceeds the height limit by 17 feet.
The proposed regulations would make most of the buildings in King Harbor "legally nonconforming" structures, meaning they could not be rebuilt as they currently exist. In a report prepared by City Manager Timothy Casey, the new classification for those buildings was characterized as "the most critical effect" of the proposed ordinance.
More than half a dozen restaurants, the Portofino Inn, the '76 Fuel Dock, the Redondo Beach Marina hoist and the King Harbor and Redondo Beach Yacht Club buildings could not be rebuilt without conforming to the new standards, according to the report. Meyer recommended that the City Council submit an ordinance of its own that would exempt "legally nonconforming" businesses from the new requirements if they are damaged or destroyed by natural disasters.
"The businesses would be able to rebuild; they would just have to do some redesigning and they just wouldn't be able to build as large," said Oliver in defense of the proposed ordinance. "The idea of the ordinance is not to drive people out of business."
"The people would just have to vote on any changes," added Doerr. "It puts the question to the community rather than having the city debate each project as it comes along.
Doerr, who denied that the initiative was tailor-made to block construction of the Inn at King Harbor, said backers of the measure do not foresee drastic changes in the skyline at the harbor for at least two or three decades, when existing businesses change hands and new structures will be proposed.
"We just can't handle all of the traffic and congestion that tall buildings bring to the harbor," she said. "This is not Long Beach harbor or San Diego harbor. We have a small area and most of the area has been built out. The only thing for developers to do now is to go up."