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Redondo Seeks to Revitalize a Gritty Street

City Council will hear a plan to mix residential and commercial zoning on Torrance Boulevard. Critics raise concerns about the environment.

July 18, 2006|Ashley Surdin | Times Staff Writer

Its carwash sweepers are thick with dust and its front doorway is a threshold of shattered glass.

Save for the cars that pass by and the sparsely filled businesses across the street, the only signs of life at the Redondo Car Wash are the stubborn weeds sprouting through the cracked sidewalk out front.

The empty carwash is on a strip of Torrance Boulevard in Redondo Beach that the city hopes to revitalize with a mix of residential and commercial development.

Tonight, the Planning Commission is expected to propose that the City Council rezone the strip, between Camino Real and Prospect Avenue, to allow as many as 189 residences among existing and new businesses, senior planner Aaron Jones said.

Most residents agree the area needs revitalizing, but many oppose building condominiums there.

Coupled with street beautification, the proposal could help jump-start more than 100 existing businesses along the boulevard, which account for $66,000 of the $8 million in annual sales tax in the city, Jones said.

Aged and noisy auto shops could be replaced with affordable two-story homes, no bigger than 2,000 square feet under the plan, which also calls for grassy areas and signs with a sailing theme.

"Right now, as you drive west on Torrance Boulevard, you see two strip malls, a 7-Eleven and a mortuary -- very little to define that you're entering a beach community," Jones said.

Jim Light, who heads Building a Better Redondo, a group of more than 100 residents who oppose the plan, said it would violate environmental regulations.

The group also says the city is ignoring its own ordinances, which require businesses to clean up their abandoned properties.

"The only answer the city has to cleaning up is to put more condos in," Light said.

Business owners "get the windfall from their properties being converted from commercial to residential zoning. So it actually encourages landowners to let their property to run down," he said.

"It's time to find a different scheme than just shoehorning condos in our limited city," added Light, who wrote a 94-page document requesting the City Council to reject the plan.

Light said he drafted the document after the city refused to complete an environmental review for the proposal.

If the city continues to refuse, Light said, he will take legal action.

Planning Director Randy Berler said the environmental review is not necessary because the impact of the plan would be less than the impact of current zoning.

Under current zoning, the more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space could be doubled, Jones said, while the rezoning would allow far less.

No all residents are opposed to the plan.

As he stood inside his empty laundry on Torrance Boulevard, just across the street from the Redondo Car Wash, Robert Kim said the proposal sounded like a good idea.

"This street, it's ugly," said Kim, owner of Coin-Op Laundromat, who noted that homeless people have plagued his store and customers are nowhere to be found at night.

"It's got to be cleaned and made more secure," Kim said. If security comes at the cost of allowing homes, he added, it is worth the price.

Not so, said Lien Tran, 53, who for 20 years has run the Hair California salon, also across the street from the abandoned carwash. "If you build houses, more people come to live, and it's more crowded.

"That's why I think it's not a good idea."

Today's public hearing starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Redondo Beach City Council Hall, 415 Diamond St.

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