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Redondo Beach will vote on outlawing power generation at AES site

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The Redondo Beach AES power plant at night. Photo by Chelsea Sektnan

AES Redondo Beach. Photo by Chelsea Sektnan

The Redondo Beach City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to put a measure that would outlaw power generation at the existing 50-acre AES power plant site on the March ballot.

Over 7,000 local residents signed a petition in support of the ballot measure, which according to the City Attorney’s non-partisan summary would rezone the land and create a “Coastal Preserve” requiring at least 60 and up to 70 percent of the site to be converted to park and open space uses and the remaining 30 to 40 percent be allocated between commercial, institutional or marine related light industrial and boatyard uses.

Three weeks ago, when the question to add the initiative to the March ballot first came before the council, City Attorney Mike Webb asked for more time to investigate its legality. The city had received legal threats from both NoPowerPlant.com lawyers and AES minutes before the Oct. 16 meeting, leaving the council in a tenuous position – the city would be sued if the initiative was added to the ballot, or if it was not. The disagreement hinged on differing interpretations of Measure DD, an initiative passed 2008 that added Article 27 to the City Charter, requiring citywide votes to significant changes in land use.

AES argued that the proposed land use change at its site should be subject to environmental review required under Article 27, which would have delayed a public vote and cost the city as much as $200,000. NoPowerPlant.com contended that removing power generation as an acceptable use was not subject so such review and strongly urged the council against delaying a public vote.

On Tuesday, AES Southland president Eric Pendergraft publically withdrew the company’s threat of litigation. He told the council that AES supported putting the measure on the ballot.

“We are tremendously confident in democratic process,” Pendergraft said. “We think when people understand the facts they will make the best decision for Redondo Beach and will defeat this overwhelmingly, but we support your decision to put it on the March ballot and put this distraction behind us all and move on with responsibly planning for our future.”

Webb recommended putting the initiative on the March 5 ballot. The motion was moved and seconded by council members Steve Diels and Matt Kilroy immediately.

After the quick decision, many people sitting in the audience vigorously clapped until Mayor Mike Gin asked them to calm down.

Pendergraft still argued that DD was meant to apply to all changes of allowable land use. He said it was inconsistent that the two individuals who sponsored DD – Councilman Bill Brand and Building a Better Redondo leader Jim Light – were now arguing against environmental review “because it’s no longer convenient to do those studies and doesn’t fit in with the required timeline.”

“So they are taking a contradictory position,” Pendergraft said. “And really abandoning the principals they’ve stood by for years.”

Pendergraft wrote in his Oct. 16 letter that Article 27 is intended to “ensure that the voters of Redondo Beach receive all necessary and accurate environmental information on proposals for major changes in allowable land use, so that they may intelligently vote on any such proposal”. He stressed that a thorough environmental report needs to be done and asked the Council to follow the City Charter.

“Having said all this, we know to challenge this legally would likely cost the city and Redondo Beach tax payers a great deal of money,” said Pendergraft on Tuesday. “That’s not something we’re interested on doing on this particular issue. If you choose to put it on the March ballot we support that decision.”

Webb said that in his opinion was clear that [Article 27] would not apply to a citizen-led initiative, but it could be subject to a court challenge.

Councilmember Steve Aspel made a plea for civility throughout the upcoming months.

“Everybody is going to campaign for or against this,” said Aspel. “…It would be nice if everybody could speak their opinions no matter what side they’re on… Not everybody is on the same side of this thing and the voters will decide. If you’re on one side or the other it doesn’t make you a better person. So I’m just going to ask for a little civility in this whole thing, and I haven’t seen a whole lot of it lately.”

Brand echoed Aspel’s appeal for respectful discourse. “I would encourage everybody to keep it fair in terms of sticking to the issues,” Brand said. “We don’t need to be name-calling. There’s plenty of material on this issue, so just stick to what you think are the facts and what facts are important to you and why you have the position you have.” ER



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