Two weeks after tentatively agreeing to remove residential areas from a proposed redevelopment area--to the relief of residents fearful of losing their homes--the Redondo Beach Redevelopment agency voted this week to leave the area intact at least until March.
Critics of redevelopment, however, said they were encouraged by members' comments that they still intend to reduce the study area. In addition, property owners expressed relief that the agency voted not to use eminent domain powers to condemn any property. Some members had previously said the agency--made up of the mayor and the five City Council members--should reserve the right to condemn commercial properties.
In the next six months, financial feasibility studies will be done and the city will inform the community about the redevelopment process and receive more public comments, Assistant City Manager Ray Griest said. "What I see happening here is an attempt by the mayor and the council to be responsive to the public," he said.
Mayor Barbara Doerr and Councilwoman Marcia Martin voted against the delay and said they wanted to abandon the entire project immediately because of public opposition.
"The people that we were professing to help don't want help," Martin said after the meeting. "We can continue this until March, but what's the point? The people don't want it now and they aren't going to want it then."
Bill Bowman, whose family drugstore is in a shopping center that was to have been removed from the study area, said he was "frustrated and miffed that they at least didn't have enough guts to do something.
"Kill it or let's get on with it," he said. "But they really didn't do anything, except delay it."
Bowman is chairman of the project area committee, a group that under state law must be elected by residents and businesses within the study area to represent them before the Redevelopment Agency.
Political activist Tom O'Leary said the agency made a "strategic retreat . . . because they could see that they're unquestionably losing the battle."
"People are just relieved that the whole thing has been postponed for six months," he said. The agency should put the issue on the ballot and let residents decide if they want redevelopment, he said.
Kay Horrell, chairman of the Redevelopment Agency, said members have clearly indicated that they will reduce the study area as they tentatively voted to do two weeks ago. "I think it's a foregone conclusion," she said. The reduction was not finalized this week, she said, because the three-hour meeting went off on too many tangents.
She said the redevelopment study may eventually be abanoned altogether if the city and businesses would not sufficiently benefit from a reevelopment project.
But, she added, "I don't think we're doing our job if we scrap an idea early in the game andd not look at all aspects of it."
The "underlying problem" the community has with the redevelopment process, she said, is a lack of education. "If we don't understand something, we're afraid of it, and if we're afrai of it, we don't like it," she said.
The agency scheduled a special meeting Sept. 14 to give the staff and consultants directions on what issues they want to address in the next six months.
City officials have touted redevelopment as a tool to improve deteriorating commercial corridors and residences as well as nearby low- and moderate-income housing. But critics say Redondo Beach is not blighted and businesses should be left to fix up properties on their own.
The study area generally consists of the state beach; most of Artesia and Aviation boulevards; the City Hall complex; Veterans Park; Dominguez Park; the Redondo Union High School campus; Pacific Coast Highway between South Guadalupe Avenue and Anita Street; Catalina Avenue between Beryl and Anita streets and between Pearl and Diamond streets; two industrial areas--one in the northeastern corner of the city and one on 190th Street--and the Southern California Edison right of way that cuts across North Redondo.