REDONDO BEACH — After more than a decade of protests, a citywide referendum and property acquisitions costing more than $2.6 million, the city has officially given up on plans to transform Flagler Lane and Prospect Avenue into a major north-south thoroughfare.
The two-mile road-widening project, which critics say would have turned residential neighborhoods into congested traffic corridors, was bid a final farewell this week when the City Council agreed to sell 23 properties acquired for the project.
"As far as we are concerned, Flagler-Prospect is dead," said City Manager Timothy Casey. "We are now fully geared up for an orderly disposition process."
The council voted to declare 11 single-family houses, three multiple-family units, six vacant lots, one commercial building and two front yards as surplus property no longer needed for public use. The surplus declaration allows the city to begin selling the properties at a series of public auctions, a process that will begin in about three months and will take three years.
If the city gets the price it wants for the properties, the ill-fated project could translate into a half-million-dollar bonus for the city.
The city staff expects to sell the properties for $3.2 million--about $2.5 million of which must be returned to the County of Los Angeles. All but two of the properties were purchased over the past 13 years with county gasoline tax money, with the city agreeing to reimburse the county without interest should the project be scrapped. The county would have undertaken the road improvements at its expense.
The city spent $156,000 from its general fund to buy homes at 500 Flagler Lane (now a vacant lot) and 1901 Pullman Lane. The two properties were worth $375,000 last year, according to city appraisers.
Casey said the city has not decided how it would spend any profit made from the real estate transactions, and cautioned that it is still too early to know what the selling prices will be. He said the city's primary concern is to reimburse the county.
Pay Back County
"The proceeds will probably go into a trust or agency fund until the $2.452 million is paid back to the county," he said. "After that, I can't tell you what we would do with the money."
The road widening project, rejected overwhelmingly by voters last November, would have tripled the width of the two-lane Flagler Lane--providing two lanes in each direction as well as curbside parking--from Aviation Boulevard south to Prospect Avenue near the South Bay Hospital. Flagler would have curved around the hospital and connected with Prospect at Diamond Street. Prospect was widened to four lanes in the 1960s.
The continuous north-south artery would have provided the city with another corridor for traffic traveling between north and south Redondo Beach. The only continuous north-south arteries in the area are Hawthorne Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway.
Opponents of the project, which would have run the county $6 million in construction costs, complained that the widened road would bring out-of-town motorists into Redondo Beach and create pollution and safety hazards. The Redondo Beach City School Board unanimously opposed the road improvements, saying it would adversely affect students at several schools near Prospect Avenue.
To complete the project, the county would have needed to purchase an additional 40 properties valued at about $4 million.
Sale Will Displace Tenants
The sale of the 23 surplus properties will displace more than 50 tenants who have been renting city-owned homes. Casey said the city collected $80,000 in rent from the properties last year.
According to a tentative timetable, however, tenants will not need to move for another year. The city plans to sell the vacant lots first, followed by the single-family homes 8 to 12 months later and the multi-unit dwellings 8 to 14 months after that.
"The tenants have been prepared for this eventuality," Casey said. "With the council's action, they are now on notice."
The properties that have been declared surplus are:
Vacant lots--1900 and 1903 Pullman Lane; 1822 Harriman Lane; 2006 Aviation Way; 1900 Morgan Lane, and 500 Flagler Lane.
Front lawns--906 and 1407 Flagler Lane.
Single Family Homes--1106, 1401, 1504, 1507, 1707 Flagler Lane; 1805 and 1806 Carnegie Lane; 1901 Pullman Lane; 1901 Speyer Lane; 1824 Huntington Lane and 1822 Grant Ave.
Multiple-family and commercial units--1809 Flagler Lane and 1837 Rockefeller Lane (detached houses on the same lot); 1833-1833 1/2 Rockefeller Lane (front and rear units); 1823, 1823A, 1823B Huntington Lane; and 1804 Artesia Blvd.