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Los Angeles

Redondo Beach Officials Drop Contentious Project for Harbor

June 06, 2002|SANDRA MURILLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's back to the drawing board for Redondo Beach city officials who have rescinded a controversial residential and harbor redevelopment plan known as Heart of the City.

In a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the City Council acted to rescind the existing plan rather than have it go before voters, where the mayor and some council members believed it would surely have been killed.

Mayor Greg Hill said he and the city will do their best to work with Redondo Beach residents to create a new plan acceptable to a majority of the community. He and the city did not do an effective job of communicating the details of the plan to residents and he looks forward to beginning that process again, he said.

"I realize there's a lot of frustration on both sides, but it's time we put that aside," Hill said. "There's no way the whole town can agree on everything, but we're going to try to do a better job of informing everybody."

The plan, which covered an area stretching from Herondo Street on the north to Torrance Boulevard on the south, would have turned most of Catalina Avenue into a residential neighborhood and transformed the harbor into a seaside village. The plan called for turning acres of parking lots into a shopping district. A large portion of the 52-acre AES power plant would have been leveled and replaced with offices and homes.

The plan allowed for 2,998 new residential units and 657,000 square feet of commercial space.

If built to its maximum capacity, the project could have produced an estimated 3,500 extra vehicle trips during the evening rush hour.

The size and numbers outlined in the plan were enough to panic previously complacent residents into action.

Citizens for a Vote on Heart of the City was formed in late March to protest the council's approval of the plan. The group circulated two petitions against the project--one challenging the zoning, the other the specific plan--and in April submitted more than 6,000 signatures for each initiative. The group needed about 4,000 signatures to force an election.

The council had two choices: Rescind the plan and start all over or put it on the ballot.

"I think what you saw was a political time bomb defused for the time being," said Councilman Kurt Schmalz, who thought the plan should have gone to a vote.

He said the city had already gone through public discussion and community meetings. It was about time to vote, he said.

"We're in the same place now that we would've been if this was defeated in a vote," Schmalz said. "We can all go to meetings and talk about this, but building the consensus is the hard thing."

Hill said most people are concerned about the traffic the plan might create, but are not opposed to revitalizing the harbor area. Tuesday's vote gives the city a chance to fix some flaws in an otherwise good plan, he said.

"What we have now is a good opportunity to create a maximum capacity [of housing units] at a lower level," Hill said. In retrospect that's what we should've done before."

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