Kelley Kim

The fall of the Redondo Beach wall brings a new bike path to Harbor Drive

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Rendering of proposed redesign of Harbor Drive facing south, with two-way protected bicycle path and six-foot wide sidewalk. Construction to start this October.

Rendering of proposed redesign of Harbor Drive facing south, with two-way protected bicycle path and six-foot wide sidewalk. Construction to start this October.

The wall is coming down.

This October, the much-maligned wall that separates the Hermosa Beach Strand and Redondo’s northern border will finally be destroyed. The Redondo Beach City Council on July 15 approved plans to create a new gateway for the city’s entrance along Harbor Drive, knocking down the wall in order to create a public plaza and an improved bicycle path that will reconnect the Strand via a traffic-calming “gentle S-curve” through what is now a city parking lot.

Proposals to take down the wall have been discussed for a decade.

“Ever since I got elected council, I’ve been pulling levers here and there trying to get that wall taken down,” said Councilmember Bill Brand. “We should have some sort of ceremony when we tear down that wall. Get those sledgehammers out — that’ll be our groundbreaking, I think, a couple swings at that wall.”

Interim assistant city manager Mike Witzansky presented the details of the Herondo Street/Harbor Drive Gateway Improvement Project, which includes safer rear-in parking on Herondo Street, a two-way cycle track on the west side of Harbor Drive separated by a five-foot buffer from car parking and vehicle lanes, and a six-foot pedestrian sidewalk. The project is estimated to cost just under $4 million dollars and will be funded from a variety of transportation-restricted state, county, and federal sources with only a few hundred thousand dollars coming from city funds.

“The treatments we’ve added will make it a far safer place for anybody,” said Witzansky, who prepared the plans to augment South Bay connectivity and coastal access. “Ultimately what this has been about for us, is it’s a placemaking statement. We’ve all long lamented parking lot 13; the wall that separates Hermosa Beach from Redondo Beach is embarrassing at best…We’re beautifying our key entryway.”

Aspel said the new bike path would help bring people to the city’s harbor area.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the mayor said. “It’s going to be nice that you can go through there and meander down to our pier area. Sometimes down our bike path, it’s hard to ride a bike.”

The plan’s call for water-thirsty grass as a part of the horticultural makeup of the median caused Brand to rally for “xeriscaping,” a landscaping practice that uses drought-tolerant plants, such as cacti or purple sage. Brand made a motion to eliminate open grass from the plan and was seconded by Councilmember Matt Kilroy.

Witzansky suggested a compromise — to plant grass only in the welcoming plaza — but a substitute motion was initiated by Councilmember Jeff Ginsburg to keep grass throughout the plan area. Ginsburg’s motion ultimately won out over Brand’s motion, as Councilmember Steve Sammarco’s abstention from entire matter created a tie — Brand and Councilmember Matt Kilroy against grass, Ginsburg and Councilmember Pat Aust in favor. The mayor was thus required to break the tie, casting a vote for Ginsburg’s motion.

In an odd twist of events, after the motion had passed, Aspel expressed support for Brand’s view.

“It wins,” said Aspel. “It was a split decision because of a parkway, but…I agree with Councilmember Brand, you don’t want to have…the parkways all full of grass and things like that. Just that center area. But I don’t want to muck it up by having any changes in your plan.”

Construction is planned to begin this October with the project completed by May 2015.

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