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Blight Fright : Skeptical Redondo Residents Hope to Quash Redevelopment Plan

August 30, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

When Redondo Beach's deteriorated downtown gave way to the wrecking ball of redevelopment two decades ago, the city forced hundreds of people from their homes and businesses.

Many of them, as well as other longtime residents, still tell horror stories from that time, and many criticize the sprawling condominium and apartment complexes that replaced the city's downtown.

D & D Drug Co. was one of the businesses, forced out in 1969 from a location it had occupied since 1910. The family-owned drugstore was relocated--with the city's help--to the nearby Redondo Triangle Shopping Center.

Sixteen years later, the city declared the shopping center a redevelopment area, applied eminent domain and again forced D & D Drug to make way for a recently opened Sheraton hotel.

So when the city put the King Harbor Plaza Shopping Center--where the drugstore is now--into a new redevelopment "study area" recently, D & D's owners, and many others, got nervous.

Outcry Continues

Since then, the city has tentatively removed the shopping center, as well as all residential properties, from the study area, responding to property owner complaints and residents' fears of losing their homes.

But the outcry over redevelopment continues.

"Why do we have the leave-me-alone view? Because we have seen it all before," Rene Burke told the Redevelopment Agency at a recent meeting when he asked that his Pacific Coast Highway property be removed from the study area. Many Redondo residents, he said, "still retain the terrible memories of those days when men and women lost their hopes, their health, and some even lost their minds."

Sue Haller, director of the city's Housing, Economic Development and Transit Department, told the agency at a recent meeting: "We never imagined that the concern would be so great, because we never intended to play anything but a constructive role."

In addition to tentatively reducing the size of the study area, the agency promised not to use its eminent domain powers on any commercial properties that also are used as residences.

The promised changes, however, won't be effected until the Redevelopment Agency passes a resolution, which it is expected to do Tuesday night.

What will be left is a redevelopment study area that weaves through most areas of the city and includes the state beach, City Hall complex and most of the Redondo Union High School campus.

Civic Center Planned

City officials plan to build a civic center complex at the City Hall site someday and said that a redevelopment project may provide money to fix up restrooms on the beach and landscape the bordering hillside.

Once the resolution is passed, the agency cannot change any of the provisions or restrictions, except to further limit the size of the study or their eminent domain powers. The only way to expand the project would be to declare a new study area and begin the lengthy redevelopment process again.

Some residents continue to criticize the designation of a study area--which could lead to adoption of a formal redevelopment plan about a year later--and the officials who support it.

Mayor Barbara J. Doerr and the City Council supported the study area when it was approved in April. This month, Doerr has been speaking against redevelopment and said the city should drop the idea for now.

She said that just putting a building in a redevelopment study area taints the property. Doerr said a woman told her after the study area was approved that she had bought a "$500,000 piece of blighted property."

Critics have been protesting the city's plans at every City Council and Redevelopment Agency meeting, saying that Redondo Beach is not blighted and redevelopment is unnecessary. Critics say that business owners have been improving their buildings at their own pace and do not need government assistance or interference.

Officials reply that blight can be measured not only by visual decay, but by economic and social conditions as well. They say that crime in the area, for example, could be reduced by improving its appearance.

Most city officials defend redevelopment as a useful tool to pay for improvement of deteriorating commercial corridors and residences--if any are left in the redevelopment project--and nearby low- and moderate-income housing, even if it is not in the study area.

Many Types of Financing

The city could help property and business owners rehabilitate their buildings and landscaping through grants, rebates, low-interest loans or other financing mechanisms. A redevelopment project also would allow the Redevelopment Agency to borrow money to make public improvements in the area.

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