Mark McDermott

Coalition forms in support of new harbor zoning

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Former councilman Chris Cagle speaks on behalf of Measure G at a press conference Tuesday. Photo by Mark McDermott

A coalition of newly-formed groups announced a joint campaign Tuesday on behalf of Measure G, a Nov. 2 ballot measure that would approve the city’s proposed new harbor zoning.

The coalition includes harbor area businesses, former and current elected officials, the Chamber of Commerce and a group of Redondo Beach mothers. It represents perhaps the most organized effort yet at politically combating Building A Better Redondo, the “slow growth” group that has opposed most of the city’s ongoing efforts at harbor revitalization and recently won a lawsuit forcing harbor zoning to a public vote.

Don Szerlip, the chair of the Redondo Beach Chamber’s political action committee, said that the campaign seeks to address the “blatant lies” being propagated by BBR regarding the proposed zoning.

“It’s time to set the record straight and show that what was a silent majority will now step up and speak for the future of Redondo Beach,” Szerlip said.

The coalition highlighted aspects of the zoning that its leaders said derived from a decade of consensus-building among stakeholders and residents, including the preservation of ocean views through height limitations, restriction of residential development in the harbor area, the requirement for a public boat launch and a 12-foot wide paved esplanade adjacent to the water’s edge, and the inclusion of park zoning at the AES power plant site.

Conversely, they argued that a vote against Measure G would revert the area to the 1964 zoning that allowed for the building of 10-story buildings separating the Redondo waterfront from the rest of the city.

Former Councilman Chris Cagle, the head of a new group called Redondo United, said the time has come to bring the city’s long debate over harbor zoning to a close. He said the zoning comes from a decade-long public process that included extensive public input and cost the city nearly $2 million.

“It’s time for the community to come together and conclude this discussion,” Cagle said. “There is no reason this should continue for another 10 years. It’s time to bring people together and time to vote yes on this measure and move on to the next stage of our city’s history.”

Cagle launched his political career in 2001 as the leader of a grassroots movement that toppled the city’s proposed Heart of the City plan, which would have allowed 2,998 residential units and one million square feet of commercial development in addition to the existing 900,000 square feet of commercial space in the harbor. He said the proposed zoning represented “a huge negotiated victory” in that it reduces allowable new commercial development to 400,000 square feet and allows no new residential development.

“It represents a very reasonable and fair compromise from where we were,” Cagle said.

Trinity Keeney, who heads a group called Save Our Seaside that has been largely critical of several aspects of the city’s harbor development strategy, said that the proposed zoning is vital to the economic vitality of the harbor.

“It is not about building and overbuilding…It’s about helping our city be the best it can be for everyone,” said Keeney, who manages the Starboard Attitude nightclub on the pier. “Measure G is important for our future, protecting this area and allowing us to go forward in a way that better serves our community.”

Roseanne Tracy, who heads Redondo Moms for Measure G, said she and other mothers simply want to create a place where they feel more comfortable bringing their children. She said the existing harbor has little to offer families and at times feels downright scary.

“I am tired of taking my kids to other cities,” she said. “I’d like to keep them here in our city….There are not going to be giant buildings. We don’t want condos and we don’t want big office buildings. We want a nice place to go like the Metlox area over in Manhattan Beach or up on the Hill – someplace nice you can take your kids.”

Mike Zislis, whose Shade Hotel has been a lynchpin in Manhattan’s successful Metlox development, said that his proposed new Shade Hotel in the marina would be endangered by the defeat of Measure G. He said he has been in a “holding pattern” and not submitted his final plans as he awaits the outcome of the vote.

“I can’t wait any longer,” Zislis said. “Now is the time to build the hotel. I believe this city is ready for turnaround, and I want to be the one spearheading it…This is going to get in the way.”

Les Guthrie, the head of the largest leaseholder in the harbor, Marina Cove, called the potential defeat of Measure G “an investment killer, a job killer, and a morale killer.” He said ongoing uncertainty makes major reinvestment in his leasehold fiscally unwise.

“We have, for many years, been waiting to reinvest,” Guthrie said.

Councilman Bill Brand, a former BBR activist and a leader in the No on Measure G movement, dismissed charges leveled by Measure G supporters. He said No supporters also includes mothers for the simple reason that its impacts – according to the city’s own studies – would include 30,000 additional car trips a day and three-story development in the harbor. He said most voters will likewise find such impacts troubling.

“We’ll find out if people want three-story timeshares and 30,000 cars a day in the waterfront when people go to the polls,” Brand said. “What is unfortunate is the ballot language is very misleading and incomplete. Our job is to explain what the real impacts of this are. If Measure G fails, there will be an opportunity to engage the public in a meaningful way which they have not done – which is why there is so much controversy.”

Brand said the notion that 1964 zoning would be in effect is “absurd” and since it predates the state’s 1976 Coastal Act. He said, for example, that Zislis could submit his plan immediately and it could be approved by both the City Council and the California Coastal Commission.

“He has nothing to worry about,” Brand said.

Zislis, however, said that he is plenty worried. He said he has already invested over a half million dollars but that he simply could not build a financially viable hotel that had only two stories. His proposal, a 50 room hotel in the north part of the harbor area – where three stories would be allowed – would be reduced to 30 rooms, Zislis said.

The developer said he may be forced to pull out should Measure G fail, but that he still hopes to be at the forefront of harbor development.

“This is the last of the great beach communities,” Zislis said. “We all know it’s an unpolished jewel. I am here to be the guy who puts the first gem in the new crown. And once I am here, other people will follow.” ER

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