Mayor vetoes public advisory vote for CenterCal waterfront proposal
Rendering of Waterfront project proposed by developer CenterCal, which will add 523,732 square feet of new development to King Harbor.
The Waterfront Project proposed by developer CenterCal was almost put to a citywide public vote until Mayor Steve Aspel’s veto last week put an end to a council-approved move to consider seeking community consent.
Three-and-a-half hours into the Redondo Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday July 15, Councilmember Bill Brand made an unexpected motion, which was quickly seconded by Councilmember Steve Sammarco, to hold an advisory vote that would allow voters to weigh in on the CenterCal proposal for the redevelopment of the city’s waterfront.
“There’s no bigger issue going on in this city right now and I think it’s time to take the temperature of the residents, see yay or nay…if they’re for it or against it, so we can all move forward with the confidence that we have community support one way or the other,” Brand said.
After a 3-2 vote in favor of Brand’s motion, Aspel immediately vetoed it.
“Why go through all that grief for an advisory vote?” said Aspel.
In a mass email Friday morning, Aspel explained the reasoning behind his swift veto.
“Since it is an advisory vote only,” wrote Aspel, “it would be non-binding. Many citizens would assume that a vote on this item would become law. In fact, it would not.”
Aspel’s email continued with a reminder that Measure G, a November 2010 ballot proposition, resulted in 52.5 percent of voters approving zoning ordinances allowing up to 400,000 sq. ft. of new waterfront development.
“Measure G passed,” wrote Aspel. “There are some who opposed Measure G and quite simply want a second bite at the apple. With that said, the citizens of our city have already spoken.”
Brand, at Tuesday’s council meeting, presented a different view of the legacy of Measure G.
“I think the beauty of having this [public advisory] vote is it would call off both the opposition and the support for this,” Brand said. “It could be quite a healing process as opposed to the road we appear to be headed down. Measure G was four years ago. I really can’t find too many people who really remember much of Measure G. It would be nice for everyone in the city to be able to see the project and weigh in.”
The Waterfront Project, which is in the initial stages of environmental review, would raze 221,347 square feet of existing commercial buildings and build 523,732 square feet of new development, including 100 room boutique hotel, an indoor/outdoor “market hall,” shops, restaurants, a parking structure and a reconfiguring of the city’s artificial Seaside Lagoon so it actually opens up to the ocean.
Nothing was originally agendized regarding a waterfront advisory vote. The Council was considering a set of resolutions for a special election this November — one which will pare down the City Treasurer position, and another to extend mayoral, city council, and school board term limits to three four-year terms.
City Treasurer Steve Diels campaigned last year to reduce the cost and responsibilities of the treasurer’s position, which is unusual in Redondo in that it is an elected position but has few other guidelines and is somewhat redundant, as most municipal financial responsibilities, save managing investments, are handled by the city’s finance department. Last month, the council approved Diel’s proposal, cutting the position’s pay from $117,000 a year to $25,000. The ballot measure would formally make the position part-time.
Councilmember Matt Kilroy piggybacked on the special municipal election with the idea of adding a ballot proposal to extend term limits. He argued that the two-term limit takes away institutional knowledge from local governance and creates a situation in which city staff can too easily dominate policymaking.
“Power, decisions, leadership — nature abhors a vacuum,” Kilroy said. “Someone is going to fill it, and this is not a knock on staff, but it will get filled by staff — staff will, inadvertently at best, intentionally at worst, promote their objectives and their desires more so than otherwise might be if you had an experienced council representing the citizens.”
Brand, who along with Sammarco opposed the term limits extension, said turnover is essential in keeping fresh perspectives on council.
“I’ve seen it in other cities,” he said. “People get so entrenched. It’s so difficult to get fresh blood up here sometimes, and eight years a is a long time — it’s plenty of time, frankly.”
The term limit ballot proposal, along with the treasurer’s ballot measure, was approved 3-2.
“The people will decide,” said Councilmember Pat Aust.