The Redondo Beach City Council voted to award the 15-acre pier waterfront development project to El Segundo-based developers CenterCal Properties LLC last night after a much anticipated question-and-answer session with the three potential developers. Councilmember Bill Brand was the lone dissenter, instead preferring Pacifica Companies for their relationship with the Coastal Commission.
“This is somebody we would pick to date,” said Mayor Mike Gin. “We’re not consummating a marriage today.”
City Staff recommended the council approve CenterCal as the preferred developer because of their expertise with community development projects, their financial backing, ability to retain community authenticity and their history of success engaging the public in their designs.
“We have to show some backbone and make a decision,” said Councilmember Steve Aspel. “It’s [about] a design yet, there will be community input, you will be engaged. The developer [will] have to listen to everybody.”
The council also decided to have two additional outreach meetings in the next two months to provide additional opportunity for public input.
Redondo Beach Council, Harbor Commission and CenterCal will spend the next 24 to 36 months discussing the site planning, design and will conduct an environmental review with many opportunities for public input.
According to the report, the city expects to invest as much as $150 million to $200 million over the next five to ten years in the waterfront development project and expects to generate as much as $4 million to $8 million in new annual revenue from the new retail entertainment and hospitality center.
“We have to stop and think,” said Councilmember Bill Brand. “This is a historic moment.”
At an earlier council meeting Brand suggested adding another public meeting to talk to the developers before making the final decision, but his request was denied. Residents also asked the council to slow down, many pointing out that the project has been in the works since the fire in 1988, and another couple of months wouldn’t make a difference.
“I’ve been asked why this is taking so long and why we’re going so fast,” said Councilmember Steve Diels. “This is a public process, things move along at the speed of democracy.”
Councilmember Pat Aust reminded residents who had questions about the developer’s specific visions, mostly centered on a potential boat ramp, that at this time the council is not picking out “the lawn chairs, we’re picking out who’s going to pay for the lawn chairs.”
The decision to recommend CenterCal as the preferred developer was easy, Waterfront and Economic Development Director Pete Carmichael said before the meeting on Tuesday. “They’re the best fit- for a lot of different reasons.”
Carmichael explained that CenterCal focuses on retail and entertainment and have an in-house staff that’s dedicated to leasing, marketing and event programming. “Which we feel will be a big component,” said Carmichael. “Their experience combining retail with hotel and a number of other reasons related to conceptual business plans really makes them the best fit.”
Carmichael said that the other two, Lowe Enterprises and Pacifica Companies, are more hotel-driven. Lowe, he said, was proposing a site driven by filling hotel rooms and Pacifica Companies is a mid-marketer of mid-range hotels. “Their expertise, while very good, is not as good a fit for the project our waterfront calls for,” said Carmichael. “CenterCal shined, combining hotel and retail… they’ve shown an ability to attract national and local tenants and mix them in a way that creates an authenticity.”
Many residents who spoke to the council echoed the staff report supporting CenterCal. “Redondo Beach truly is an amazing and remarkable place; I support the city staff’s recommendation. I don’t think we’re rushing,” said resident Trudy Singer.
Others liked the fact that CenterCal’s CEO Fred Bruning and his company’s team are local and are invested in the community.
“The city is poised to put itself back on the map like it used to be,” said resident and master leaseholder Bob Resnick. “It’s an exciting new chapter in the history of Redondo Beach.” ER