Where Am I? [ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT]
I have always loved municipal piers. Generally, they are highly democratic places with people from every walk of life sharing the joys of fresh air, nearly limitless views and the odd collection of “mom and pop” retail outlets offering everything from food to knick-knacks, reflecting the makeup of the area.
Rarely, if ever, have I seen a pier be an adjunct to a shopping mall.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I were strolling down Nanjing Road in Shanghai and came up with the same observation. With its glitzy shops duplicating Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue or central London, we could have been anywhere, not in city in a (hardly) Communist country.
The problem with the CenterCal concept for the redevelopment of the Redondo King Harbor area is that when completed, you would have no idea where you were. You could be at any of the hundreds of shopping malls that dot the landscape of California, with the same retailers offering the same merchandise.
Sure there are other issues, such as noise, disrupted views, etc. But, that would happen with any development. It is the price of having a Harbor such as ours, with its commercial expanse. If you’ve traveled to Santa Cruz, for example, its waterfront development is one that separates itself from the surrounding neighborhood. So, the juxtaposition of waterfront and residential is not unique.
However, once “inside,” the Santa Cruz property literally represents the community…a bit offbeat and funky. CenterCal will turn our waterfront into an extension of Del Amo.
I know this was not the intention of even the woe begotten Heart of the City concept that led to all this rigmarole. Even in that concept, there was a large element of civic centeredness. With CenterCal, it is revenue per square foot.
I haven’t gotten into the ridiculous financial arrangement being made between the City and CenterCal. It is not unlike all those “holdups” that take place when billionaire sports team owners extort civic expenditures to build palaces where the owners alone will make more money.
The City Council has, it seems, given up on sanity in place of lust for a “showpiece.” But, when the glitz is off the project, what will be left is a shopping mall. Just look at the malls that surround us and remember that each of them were “jewels” at the beginning. Now, they are all rough around the edges…or even deeper.
You don’t build something for the first day. You build it for decades. This opportunity comes along, hopefully, rarely. It has to be taken advantage of…not have you be the one taken.
A lot of work has gone into this project. Years of hand wringing and jerky movements toward a conclusion. Nevertheless, a bad conclusion would be worse than none. From the looks of it, a tired and defeated City Council is ready to call an end to the thinking.
That would be a mistake we will spend decades living with.