Legado Redondo project denied by Redondo Beach Planning Commission
by David Mendez
Legado Redondo is no more…for now.
On Thursday night, the Redondo Beach Planning Commission voted to deny a conditional use permit for the Legado Companies’ mixed-use development at the corner of Palos Verdes Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, which would have included 149 apartment units and 37,000 square foot of commercial development. The project has been a source of contention among members of the community since its first appearance before the planning commission in March of this year.
Legado’s intention for the night’s meeting wasn’t showcase the 149-unit version of their project. Their hope was that the commission would give a thumbs-up to a reduced-scale, Mediterranean-style iteration produced following an August hearing of the project. That version of Legado Redondo, as presented by company CEO Edward Czuker, consisted of 146 residential units and 23,764 square feet of commercial space.
But according to Redondo Beach Community Development Director Aaron Jones, Legado missed a submission deadline, despite numerous communications from city staff requesting the company turn their plans over for review. The deadline, he said, was necessary in order for them to make a proper assessment of the plans for inclusion in the Planning Commission’s agenda. “The plans we got were received on Nov. 5 at 5 p.m.,” Jones said. “That gave us only four working days to look at plans we’ve never seen…that is not sufficient to do that work.”
Moreover, Jones said, staff determined that the plans that they did receive were incomplete, lacking elevations of proposed parking decks as well as “any number of 10 other things it would take in order to have the project before this commission.”
Thus, Redondo’s planning department offered two possible recommendations to the commission: They could vote on the 149-unit plans that were reviewed at a July hearing, which was so opposed by the commission that they directed staff to determine findings for denial of the project; or they could continue the public hearing for another sixty days, giving Legado enough time to complete their submission on the 146-unit version.
Legado bristled at the idea of a further continuance. Fernando Villa, the developer’s legal representation, said that any confusion of the timeline presented by city staff was due to misunderstanding, and that Legado felt their submission was complete, based on what city staff told them was necessary.
“The commission does have the discretion to consider the 146-unit project that [Czuker] presented; you have that ability,” Villa said. “Your hands are not bound, you are not unable to consider, you have that discretion…we think we presented you with what you need.”
“We understand our authority,” commissioner Nick Biro replied. “The project that’s been presented has not been incorporated into the staff report and hasn’t been fully presented. How can we discuss it if you haven’t bridged the gap to get a staff report that presents your project?”
“I appreciate that we might have the power to approve this project,” commissioner Wayne Ung said, “but we have a responsibility as a commission to do what’s right not only for you, but what’s right for citizens and stakeholders. To go out on a limb without our subject matter experts weighing in on the hard work you’ve proposed would be doing everyone a disservice.”
Comments offered by most members in the public opposing the project were echoes of what was said in past meetings: The project is too big, too high and too dense. “We’re not anti-development, we want good development on this property; it needs it,” said resident Don Moore. “It is the density, the additional traffic that this would generate that we’re opposed to.”
A number of residents did show to support Legado in their efforts, many of whom touted the project’s potential for adding apartments to an area that can be exceedingly difficult to rent in according to resident Don Szerlip.
Szerlip shared that, following the recent sale of the apartment building he lived in, he was forced to search for a new home. But due to a dearth of rental properties, Szerlip was forced to sleep on couches and place his property into storage for a time before finding a new apartment.
“I’m a former city councilman, I have two daughters who graduated from Redondo Union, I own a business in Redondo Beach and apparently I am the type of person who is considered an undesirable to live in this community,” he said. “I suggest, in Legado’s interest, you postpone and reconsider the 146 unit design.”
But, in accordance with the developer’s own wishes, a continuance wouldn’t happen.
After discussing the potential ramifications of denial, including a potential appeal from Legado to the Redondo Beach City Council, as well as a possible reapplication for their projects, commissioner Dave Goodman made a motion to deny the 149-unit project before them.
The motion carried without dissent.
“I’m disappointed with Legado’s decision to put us in this position,” Goodman said. “I don’t think we can just mess around with this forever.”
The following morning, Czuker was disappointed. “We followed the commission’s lead in requesting us to go back…to further tear down the project and work with the community, we listened to the commission and followed their requests,” he said. “We felt we had done exactly what we were asked to do.”
The Legado CEO says that he’s not certain of what his company will do going forward. “This is fresh…at this time,we want to take stock of where we are and what happened, and evaluate our actions.”
Among those options is the potential to appeal the commission’s decision. According to the city municipal code, Legado has 10 days to appeal the project. That would put them and their 149-unit project before the City Council. The nearby Sea Breeze Plaza project, which faced similar community opposition, went before City Council on an appeal by District 2 councilman Bill Brand. That project was passed by the Council on a 3-2 vote.
Still, Legado may be gearing up for legal action, as alluded to in a previous interview.
As Czuker alluded to in an earlier interview, Legado appears to be preparing for potential legal action.
“At some point, we have to say that we want to preserve our legal rights to our entitlements…we want the city to vote, thumbs up or thumbs down,” Czuker said. “Beyond that, if that’s not acceptable, we need to look at what our alternatives are.”
Nils Nehrenheim, a member of Save the Riviera, was pleased by the decision, but worried. “No one is really sure what the next steps are. Now we’re probably going to go in front of the city council, and [Legado] is probably going to appeal their decision for the 149-unit project,” he said. “We hope to work with Legado again, to sit down with them again…we want to see something that’s great on that [site]. It’s a crown jewel that’s there, and we’re trying to protect our crown jewel.”