The original Redondo Beach steam station being demolished in 1946. Photo courtesy of AES Southland
by Bill Brand
Redondo Beach City Council, District 2
A fter over 100 years, the Redondo Beach waterfront will soon be free of a power plant. AES has finally admitted, by presenting an initiative for voter approval next March, that their power plant is not needed. Furthermore, the overhead power lines that stretch all the way to the 405 freeway can be removed. It’s mostly a result of the activism of Redondo citizens, and we should take a bow. But what to do next is very complicated.
It’s not as simple as voting for the AES initiative if you care about your quality of life. It’s critical that the residents consider what they want for the entire Redondo waterfront, especially since the City already plans to more than double development across the street.
Both projects combined will approach 2 million sq. ft., or twice the size of the Galleria. For those of us who live here, this is hardly a “win-win” as described by AES in a recent letter to residents, or “… a shared victory for all sides” per Mayor Aspel.
What would be a “win-win” is a proper planning process that includes the public, City staff, and elected officials. The timing is perfect to start over and look at the whole area in order to create a comprehensive vision to work towards the zoning that will get us there. This is not about padding AESs’ pockets or selling out King Harbor for a mall. It’s about a sustainable, economically feasible project that honors both the rights of property owners and the quality of life of the residents.
AES threatens that Redondo will get a new power plant if you don’t vote for their initiative. Au contraire, the Public Utilities Commissions issues the need and long-term contracts for power. While AES has applied to build 3,400 Megawatts of new power plants at their three locations in southern California, the PUC has ruled that they will only contract for a maximum of 1,500 Megawatts. So, a new 500 Megawatt power plant in Redondo, away from where the power is truly needed, is not looking good. No wonder AES has suddenly rolled-out this initiative.
The zoning in the initiative is bad. It lines Harbor Dr. with 4-story mixed-use, only requires a postage stamp-sized 4 acre park on their 50 acres (not even big enough for a soccer field surrounded by a track), and prohibits the Council from making even minor zoning changes for 10 years! Plus, it eliminates the Councils’ power to control businesses and tenants – like limiting the hours of live entertainment at restaurants, which is what we do in every other part of town.
This zoning is by AES for AES. No vetting or input by the Council or residents. AES argues that the Council will still approve projects, but the zoning is locked and can only be changed by another public vote. Just last year AES said they wanted to work with the public on repurposing 38 acres of their property, then disappeared to craft the zoning in secret, behind closed doors, while the California Energy Commission, the AQMD and the City of Redondo Beach were expending tremendous amounts of time and taxpayer dollars addressing the impacts of a new power plant. Shame on them!
Now AES is arguing for all these agencies to continue wasting taxpayer money processing their application while they circulate an initiative that would eliminate their plant. Most likely, they already have a contingent offer to sell their land to a developer if their initiative passes in March. This is the same company that sued a former councilman (Chris Cagle) and school board member (Laura Emdee) for their opinion on a ballot. Anybody still think AES cares about the residents of Redondo Beach, or the South Bay for that matter?
Redondo Beach can do much better than the cookie-cutter, piecemeal overdevelopment that is proposed for our waterfront. The “whole area” includes the 15 acres on the waterfront where CenterCal Properties plans to build a mall, the 50-acre AES site, and the Edison right-of-way down to the City limit at Beryl St. and 190th. Between doing nothing and what is before us now, there are a multitude of more balanced and better integrated alternatives. This is a once in a generation opportunity for our waterfront. Don’t allow a corporation based in Arlington, Virginia to hoodwink you into believing we have only one of two choices; vote for their initiative or get a power plant.
Get involved! Don’t be part of the 86% of registered voters who didn’t bother to vote last June. We, the residents, are the largest stakeholder and we wield the most power – if we use it. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to balance revitalization and commercial revenues with the preservation and enhancement of coastal recreation, open space, views and access. We should cherish our waterfront not hide it behind commercial and residential over-development.
A good start to learning more is to ‘Like’ the Facebook pages of “No Power Plant,” “King Harbor – a harbor not a mall,” or just send an email to me at email@example.com.
Or come make new friends and meet like-minded neighbors at my District 2 meeting on Thursday, August 14th, 6-8pm at the main library. Everyone is welcome!