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Put Limits on Development

Councilman Bill Brand Speaks Out - Sandbox, Easy Reader, Sept 2009

My side by Bill Brand
Published September 3, 2009

As a younger man, I rarely paid attention to local politics in the South Bay, despite living here since 1966. But I decided to get involved nine years ago when the Redondo Beach Planning Commission approved the rezoning of our harbor area for 3,000 condos and 650,000 square feet of additional commercial development. “Heart of the City” flags were flying everywhere.

After ignoring hundreds of residents who testified at community meetings, our City Council unanimously approved this plan in early 2002 and the war was on. Many were deeply invested in this “revitalization,” but more of us were stunned and appalled that our city government was moving ahead without any compromise to residents’ concern.

So we mounted a successful referendum drive that garnered over 6,000 signatures in 30 days. This referendum simply called for a public vote unless the Council rescinded their plan. The Council rescinded their plan. But referendums expire in a year, and the Council approved virtually the same plan with no compromises a little over a year later and formed a redevelopment agency. We mounted another successful referendum drive. Again, the Council refused to put it up for a vote and rescinded their second plan.

Then the Council put an advisory measure on the ballot and the park plan beat out yet another large development plan they supported. Did they move forward on the park plan? They did rezone the power plant back to what it was originally (industrial uses) and added parks as a permitted use, but there has been no leadership or follow-up from the Council on this issue. In fairness, a park here never was their vision, and no one on the Council ever claimed it was.

The City then began piecemealing the larger plan to avoid raising the ire of the residents. When they rezoned parts of Catalina Avenue for dense residential development despite more protests, Jim Light and I decided it was time to write an initiative that amended the city charter to always call for a public vote on major up zonings.

Finally, after three years of writing, raising money, two signature drives, raising more money and hard campaigning, Measure DD passed by a 59 percent margin last November in an election with historic voter turnout. It was a proud moment for all of us.

But we knew our work was not done. While we were waiting for voting day on Measure DD, our Council zoned our harbor for an additional 400,000 square feet of development with three-story timeshares as a permitted use—all west of Harbor Drive. No big names or flags flying this time, but one of the new leaseholders, Decron Properties, immediately crafted a conceptual plan to “revitalize” the parking lot adjacent to the Seaside Lagoon (think Ruby’s) for 200,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and office space. Decron’s plan even cut into the Seaside Lagoon for parking. We knew the people wanted to vote on this, but the Council thought they had avoided the voters by passing it before the vote on DD took place.

Ultimately, real change in Redondo will come only when a majority of the Council starts to properly represent us, the residents. So coming off the heels of the DD victory, I decided to run for City Council in District 2— the harbor, pier and AES area of Redondo Beach. I ran on my record, and told everyone that would listen about my involvement with DD, my goal to get a park at the AES site, and my opposition to the Decron mall-like development that was in the works, among many other issues.

After three months of campaigning against three other active candidates, I avoided a runoff by winning 52 percent of the vote— a very unusual outcome on the first ballot with no incumbent. My nearest competitor received 18 percent. I received no endorsements from any elected official in Redondo Beach.

So when the Coastal Commission finally conducted a public hearing last month— 200 miles away in San Luis Obispo— to consider the new zoning in our harbor that I opposed, it was no surprise to anyone paying attention that I attended the hearing to testify against my own city’s application.
Jim Light, I and three others took the day off from work, booked hotels, and drove the 200 miles to testify on behalf of the residents who approved Measure DD, and who thought 400,000 square feet with three-story timeshares was too much development for our already over-developed harbor.
The Coastal Commission was a big disappointment, and not just because they held their meeting 200 miles away. The Commission’s staff did not include the 50-page traffic analysis for the commissioners that Jim Light submitted, complete with updated traffic impact numbers produced by a paid consultant for the city of Redondo Beach. This city traffic impact study showed this new zoning would drive the harbor area to gridlock if built-out. Instead, the commissioners were shown old and inaccurate data. The one commissioner that did oppose this plan, San Francisco County Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, did so because of the lack of a recent traffic study.

Technically, the Commission rejected this rezoning, and requested certain modifications that when implemented, the Commission would then accept. This modified rezoning then has to go back to our Council for approval. Once these modifications are approved, per our new and improved city charter (as a result of Measure DD), the traffic impacts should be properly analyzed and the zoning put to a public vote before it becomes effective.

So here we are nine years later. We have won some battles but the war rages on over land use in Redondo. Within three months of my swearing-in as a new council member I’ve had to endure unfounded personal attacks and attempted bullying by others who supported the Heart of the City, opposed both referendums, opposed the park plan in the advisory vote, opposed Measure DD and opposed my candidacy. But hey, politics is a contact sport. You have to hit hard and take hard hits. It’s not in my blood to go along just to get along.

I agree with my colleagues on the Council about much more than we disagree. But, since they have all indicated time and time again that they think zoning for 400,000 square feet and three-story timeshares is compromise enough for our harbor and does not need a public vote despite the city’s new charter, I have helped raise about $20,000 toward a defense fund (for Building a Better Redondo) to take our right to vote to court if necessary.

There is no “DD police” out there. Like most statutes that get ignored or misinterpreted, the courts are the final arbiter of disputes. That’s how our system works. And if we raise enough funds, we are very confident that we will prevail. Many thanks to all of those that have contributed and continue to support our efforts.

I look forward to revitalizing our harbor, but in line with what the residents would like to see. That will be determined through a process that begins with the knowledge that whatever is settled on will require a public vote before we move forward. ER

Bill Brand is a Redondo Beach city council member.Councilman Bill Brand Speaks Out - Easy Reader Editorial Jim Light is chairman of Building a Better Redondo.
Contact Jim at

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