David Mendez

Measure brings “C change” to the Redondo Beach waterfront

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Measure C architects and champions Candace Nafissi, Bill Brand, Jim Light, Wayne Craig, Martin Holmes and Rob Gaddis celebrate on election night. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

Early returns signaled it, but by midnight it was confirmed: Measure C, new zoning for the Redondo Beach waterfront, was chosen by voters as the new law of the land.

The measure won 57.3 percent of the vote, earning 6,102 votes in favor versus 4,541 opposed.

“I’m still in shock,” said Rescue Our Waterfront co-founder Martin Holmes, who helped lead the push for Measure C. “I thought it was going to be close, 51 to 49 [percent]. For us to win with 57, almost 58 percent has me almost speechless.”

The addition of Measure C, once known as the King Harbor Coastal Access Revitalization and Enhancement (or CARE) Act, to the March ballot was an attempt to decide the fate of CenterCal Property’s Waterfront: Redondo Beach redevelopment project.

The Waterfront project, as planned, would build 19 buildings over 36 acres of project area. It includes the construction of a market hall; a five-story, 45-foot tall parking garage; a boutique hotel; movie theater; office space; and a connecting road between Torrance Boulevard and Harbor Drive. It would also reconfigure the existing Seaside Lagoon, turning it from a saltwater swimming and wading pool into what CenterCal called a “protected beach” in King Harbor. It would also include the reconstruction of aging city infrastructure in the pier area, completely renovating parking facilities.

Overall, the Waterfront project proposes 523,939 square feet of development. Net development gain, however, is 312,289 square feet of development.

That fits in under the development cap set by 2010’s voter-approved Measure G, which capped development at 400,000 net new square feet.

The writers of Measure C have called their work a “fine-tuning” of the Measure G zoning, made necessary by what they considered to be a lack of compromise between the residents, the city and the developer.

“Nearly 7,000 pissed off people signed the CARE Act,” Holmes said last year.

The measure purports to protect harbor uses in King Harbor, by ensuring that parking be designed to “conveniently accommodate and prioritize…water-oriented recreational uses.” It would also ensure that square footage of off-street parking structures, such as the one proposed in the CenterCal development, would be included in the 400,000 square foot development cap.

The parking garage was also targeted by a provision that would “protect views” by requiring minimums of 40 percent of ground-level ocean views from Harbor Drive and 60 percent of ocean views from nearby Czuleger Park be preserved.

A planned boat ramp at King Harbor’s north end, where Moonstone Park currently sits, also stands to be moved by Measure C’s passage. The measure mandates construction of the a boat ramp at Mole D, the man-made outcropping that is the current home of Samba Brazilian Steakhouse.

Seaside Lagoon, as well, was targeted by the measure. The open-ocean plan must now be scrapped, as the Lagoon is set to stay an enclosed swimming area. Measure C also mandates, should a new swimming facility be built, that the water surface area be maintained or expanded from the existing area.

All of the effects are designed to block off very specific aspects of the CenterCal project.

CenterCal’s latest rendering of Seaside Lagoon. Measure C is likely to ultimately block CenterCal’s proposed redevelopment plans. Image courtesy CenterCal.

A report produced by Redondo Beach city staff at the City Council’s request estimated that the CARE Act would cost up to $196 million in facility improvements and infrastructure construction.

In a presentation before Council, Holmes challenged the number, stating that costs could total as low as $87 million.

“This report is saying there’s a doom and gloom situation…the City wants CenterCal,” Holmes said on Nov. 30.

The residents, however, seemed to want out, nullifying the efforts of CenterCal-sponsored No on C.

“We’ve done just about everything we can,” said Phil Sanchez, a former Planning Commissioner and No on C spokesman said early in the night. “It’s fair to say that we’ve done our part. Fingers crossed, we’ve made Redondo Beach a lot better.”

Tensions were high for much of the race, as increasingly volatile messaging flew back and forth between the sides.

Joy Corradetti, owner of Mystical Joy on the International Boardwalk and vocal CenterCal supporter, felt the brunt of it in person.

“The other day, vandals wrote ‘Vote yes on C!’ in chalk outside of Mystical Joy,” Corradetti said. “I had people with Yes on C banners coming into my store, screaming at me in front of my customers.”

However, Measure C seemed to capture the imagination and passion of voters. As the election came to a close, viral videos and creative images began circulating via Facebook. Mayoral candidate Eric Coleman helped to organize Pier Aid, a Yes on C-supporting concert held on Sunday that “brought the punk rock vote,” he said.

“This side is inclusive,” said Measure C supporter Lezlie Campeggi. “If you’ve got an idea, if it’s a song, a music video, whatever, we want you to bring it.”

“Without the engagement we had, we wouldn’t have had a competitive campaign,” Holmes said. “We knew we couldn’t keep up with their money, but we made up for it with passion.” By the most available campaign finance filings, ending on Feb. 18, the No on Measure C campaign spent $307,861. In support of Measure C, Rescue Our Waterfront spent $16,218 through the same date.

The only question now is whether Measure C will hold up to Coastal Commission or legal scrutiny.

An impartial analysis by City Attorney Michael Webb raised concerns that the measure may potentially conflict with existing law, and might not be enforceable. He also noted that the Measure C might also require California Coastal Commission approval before taking effect, and that the Measure may not interfere with CenterCal’s already-obtained vested development rights.

Holmes, however, was confident.

“We ran everything by one of the top ten environmental lawyers in California…areas will be evaluated and tweaked, but I’m confident it will withstand the court system,” Holmes said. “On the whole, we think it’ll hold the way it was intended to, and the result is a new, balanced waterfront we’ve wanted all along.”

“While we are disappointed with yesterday’s outcome, our view has been that Measure C cannot be retroactively applied to a vested project like The Waterfront. The City has also expressed similar concerns and we look forward to working with city leaders to clarify Measure C’s impact on the project,” CenterCal CEO Fred Bruning said in a statement. “We agree with the thousands of Redondo Beach residents, civic leaders, and local business owners who believe that The Waterfront is the best way to address our aging infrastructure and once again make our coastline a gathering place for the entire community.”

District 2 councilman-elect Todd Loewenstein was cautiously optimistic, far more so than with 2014’s Measure B zoning election, which ultimately went in his favor.

“It feels like a sea change in Redondo Beach,” he said, pausing before catching his pun. “Oh, I didn’t do that on purpose.” 

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