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Blog: A Tale of Two Cities

Which will you choose—the safe, easy path to slow erosion of quality of life, or the harder path that can lead to a bettter town?

Redondo Beach is at a crossroad. Over the next four years decisions on major land use decisions will shape our town’s destiny. What will happen with the AES site? What type of development will we allow on the waterfront, the Bristol Farms site, and the Knob Hill school property? Will we change our outdated mono-purpose zoning? Will we change our failed vertical mixed-use high-density condo zoning standards? Will we put any teeth in our preservation ordinances or allow more of our history to be bulldozed over? Your vote this March will determine the future of our town for generations to come. 

Voters basically have two choices. You can vote for the status quo or you can vote for positive change. The election outcome will lead our beloved town down one of two distinct paths.   

The first path is the easy, no-risk path—voting for the status quo, avoiding any risk of lawsuits, abdicating our future to the whims of the developers of each project. This leads to more of same…. A blighting polluting power plant dominating our waterfront for the next 50 years.  Cookie-cutter, soulless overdevelopment. A suboptimized harbor revitalization. The slow but constant erosion of our history, our quaint seaside village appeal, and our quality of life. If this low-risk, slow, inevitable slide of our town appeals to you, you should vote against Measure A and vote for the Chamber recommended candidates.

But, there is another path. A path that requires more heavy lifting and involves some element of risk. This path requires the people and the elected officials establish a vision and then put in the effort to drive that vision to reality. It will require leadership from the City elected officials and the support of City staff and residents. 

This path can create a Redondo that would be the envy of the Beach Cities. This path can lead to a well-integrated, showcase waterfront free from an unneeded blighting, polluting, industrial eyesore. New views of the harbor and ocean would open up that have not been seen since the 1940s. Residents could reconnect to our waterfront without the wall of industrial blight that separates us today. Business revenues, property values, and city revenues would increase. We could attract quality development rather than overdevelopment. With hard work and the right incentives, we could bring a university marine science program, or a museum or art gallery, or a maritime institute, or something similar that would be a game changer for the character of our harbor. This path can embrace, preserve and enhance our sense of community and our unique history. This path can lift our town to become the Crown Jewel of the South Bay. 

And yes, this path incurs some risk. We may have to live through a lawsuit. We may have to slow down some of the current efforts a little bit to make sure we do it right the first time. But the path to great success is seldom free of risk and toil. Most of us got to live in Redondo because we worked hard and tackled challenges in our careers. In a town full of over-achievers, it would be an embarrassment to accept mediocrity. For me, it is worth the risk and effort. I would rather work hard and fall a little short than keep on the current path of slow but inevitable decline. This is doable. Other great towns have taken the risks and tackled the hard work to reap the rewards. We can do it too. 

When casting your vote think to the future. Twenty-five years from now, would you rather confess to your grandchildren that you voted for the blighting, polluting power plant and the slow decay? Would you rather warn them not to cave into the fear mongering and intimidation as you did? Or would you rather take them down to the harbor and brag that you were a part of making it so great, that you voted for the hard work and change that resulted in a town that you are proud to pass on to their generation? 

It is now or never! The opportunity is fleeting. Our time is now! 

Vote for candidates with the vision, leadership, commitment, ability and track record to be a force for positive change in our town. Vote YES on Measure A. 

Vote to leave a legacy we can all be proud of. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Keane February 08, 2013 at 05:14 PM
All you power plant people say the same thing over and over that it's not a taking. It is! AES owns that property just as many of you own your own home. What If the city came in and told you that you still own the land and the building, you just can't use it to live in; that you have to tear your home down and build a commercial establishment on only 40% of your land and the other 60% needs to be a park. IT'S CRAZY!!
Jim Light February 08, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Robert our homes are not incompatible with our neighbors. They don't impact surrounding business revenues and they don't spew tons of pollution. Comparing a home to a power plant is absurd.
Jim Light February 08, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Yet three power plant applications have been denied in other towns due to local opposition.
Robert Keane February 09, 2013 at 01:30 AM
I agree, but telling someone they can no longer operate their legal business on their property is a taking. Telling the voters that Measure A is not a taking is simply not true.
Jim Light February 09, 2013 at 01:35 AM
We allow them to compete their contract power contract. We give them a reasonable amortization period. We give them ample residual value for their property. This is not a taking.
Fred Reardon February 09, 2013 at 03:45 AM
You can't take something they don't have. And, AES does not have a permit for a new power plant and all the additional particulate matter that they plan to spew into our community. For this reason, we are hearing from all of these powerplant cheerleaders that we should be scared of this and be scared of that. What we should be scared of is the poor health effects of all the additional pollution. So all this rhetoric about taking is ridiculous. Don't believe the pro new power-plant propaganda. Vote Yes on Measure A.
Joan Irvine February 10, 2013 at 12:25 AM
And also don't believe that there will be enough money to acquire and clean up the AES property, then complete and maintain a park without AES and other corporate involvement.
Grace Stone February 10, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Talk about a Light Zombie!
L. Campeggi February 10, 2013 at 02:07 AM
Joan, you're just plain wrong. First, YES on Measure A is a rezoning of land. Redondo Beach is not obligated to acquire the property. It remains OWNED by AES, with increased economic value. AES can develop, lease or sell it per the zoning change. Next, it might behoove you to go back and listen to the numerous times AES testified to our City Council, versus regurgitating the deception they're polluting us with in their obnoxious Fear and Smear campaign. Here are some of Pendergraft's quotes to our City Council: "We recently demolished a facility in the Riverside area and were able to do it at a net zero cost because of the salvage value of the equipment and materials on the site, so it's not as astronomical as you would think." -Eric Pndergraft, President AES-Southland "We are!" said Eric Pendergraft, President, AES-Southland, when responding to a City Council question about who is responsible for the AES-Redondo site clean up. And also during Pendergraft's testimony to the Redondo Beach City Council, responding to AES abandoning the current plant, Pendergraft's response was, “I can’t imagine a situation where we would walk away from it. No.” [Hint: he knows it's illegal to 'land bank'. AES, a fortune 200 company, wouldn't risk THAT illegal activity at the expense of their shareholders.] I get that you're pro-AES. But repeating AES' baseless, meritless, scare tactics is as irresponsible to Redondo citizens as is their nasty, deceitful campaign.
L. Campeggi February 10, 2013 at 02:25 AM
Perhaps the following comment from a lawyer, posted this afternoon on Facebook, is why we're seeing a trend of attorneys living in Redondo Beach becoming more vocal with their support of YES on Measure A: "I am a lawyer and a mediator. I am not a land use expert, but even a first-year law student could understand that re-zoning and eminent domain are apples and pineapples. Measure A is NOT eminent domain --I'd bet my house on that. Eminent domain is "the power to take private property for public use by a City, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property." Measure A does no such thing. Not even close. AES would be laughed out of court if it sued based on eminent domain. Tell your neighbors, please."
Jim Light February 10, 2013 at 03:56 PM
The commercial element of Measure A is designed to cover the costs of sustainment PLUS the increase in property values and harbor business revenues will add additional city revenues. As to acquisition costs, we are confidant that once Measure A passes and the CEC denies AES their permit we will work out a schedule, a cost and other terms to create the park element of Measure A. We have until 2018-2020 - plenty of time time to work the grants and other agreements necessary. With the right leadership in city hall this is very, very doable. Other communities have done it. We can to. As to tear down and remidiation - the President of AES Southland, Eric Pendergraft, admitted to City Council they are responsible for tear down and remediation, that the salvage value of the steel and equipment will cover most of the costs of teardown and remediation, and that they could not just abandon the plant in place.
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Mr. Keane: I am your neighbor. I am a lawyer, with 21 years of experience. I have studied the issue, and I would bet everything I have that Measure A is not a taking. It is a re-zoning. Cities have broad powers to re-zone. Have a look at this power point on zoning principles from the highly regarded law firm of Best, Best & Kriger that explains why. sdapa.org/download/Principles.pdf I take it you are not a lawyer. Perhaps you may wish to re-consider the wisdom of dispensing legal advice without a law license, without citation to legal opinion, and without any basis in fact or law. I will be glad to ease your fears and discuss your legal concerns if you want to talk about it. Vote how you want on Measure A. But please don't mislead your neighbors.
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Ms. Irvine: No need to worry. Measure A does not require the city of Redondo Beach or anyone else to buy AES property. AES only has a duty to its shareholders -- not to you or me -- to maximize the value of its property and make money consistent with city and state law. What is important for you to know is that State law requires the original property owner, AES, clean up a "brownfield" industrial site regardless of who holds title to the property. I am a lawyer and a neighbor. I am qualified to speak on these issues. Why do you believe what you say?
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Mr. Keane: You are mistaken. "Open Space" need not be a "park." Open space can include many other beneficial, money-making developments, such as baseball and soccer fields that can generate millions in revenue for private property owners. Take San Diego Surf Cup, for example. That soccer tournament generates over $1 Million dollars in one weekend. Soccer fields are scarce in the South Bay and soccer clubs pay big money for field time. This is just one example of how open space can be a benefit to the community and a money-maker. Why not use your imagination and participate in a better vision for Redondo Beach? We are all neighbors. Can we agree that we need not use words like "CRAZY" to have a discussion among neighbors?
Grant Patterson February 10, 2013 at 08:20 PM
Tony, You are a very talented tradesman and have created some wonderful works of art with wood. Unfortunately trying to be a politician, legal advisor and leader is not your talent. To start your comments with stating that you don't want a power plant is just not true. Anyone can go to the city website and view your comments to the council about the issue. In fact you even said the city should look into drilling for oil on the site. So be on whatever side you want but at least stick to the facts. If people are given the facts they can decide for themselves what would be best for them. Fear and lies never lead to the right outcome. Truth: the pollution will increase with a new plant. Truth: Measure A will eliminate the chance of 100's or 1000's of condos on the site. If you are truly against a new power plant then quit making excuses for why they should be able to re-build. I choose to protect my children and elderly who are most affected by increased pollution. AES can make millions in profit somewhere else. Rezoning isn't taking money out of their pocket it is just asking them to make money somewhere else. Asking them to leave will be as successful as asking LAPD officer Dorner to turn himself in. AES, like Dorner, don't care about the people they are killing.
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Hi Ms. Ellis: I agree that Mr. Czuleger (a construction company president) and Mr. Huey (a marketing company owner) are mistaken in their legal views and perhaps a little reckless and irresponsible in giving legal opinions that border on the unauthorized practice of law. Yet, I would encourage all neighbors to deal with this issue respectfully towards one another, without calling one another "liars." The more speech we have, the better. Our neighbors are smart enough to decide whose claims are more credible.
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Mr. Light: I think it would be a mistake to conclude that AES would file a lawsuit if Measure A passes. Corporations usually act in the best interests of their shareholders and usually do not file lawsuits that are unlikely to win and unlikely to confer an economic benefit on shareholders. If AES files a lawsuit, I will be the first to volunteer my time, for free, to help the City of Redondo Beach defend the lawsuit, because I think any lawsuit brought by AES would be a huge win for Redondo Beach and a powerful message to AES that it needs to find a better way to be a good neighbor than by threats of frivolous lawsuits. Let us assume a worst-case scenario in a lawsuit. At worst, if a California court ruled that Measure A's zoning laws unconstitutionally infringed on AES property rights (highly unlikely), then the Courts would give the City of Redondo Beach a choice: either change the zoning laws or give fair compensation to AES. If that were to happen, I am confident that our City Council would do the right thing. Notice how AES never offers a legal opinion, or a case, or a law firm letter saying why Measure A is a taking? Because AES has no good legal authority. AES just makes idle threats and hopes others will repeat it. City Council: Now is the time to stand up and give your neighbors the leadership and courage that we ask of our elected officials. If not, maybe it is time for you to step down the next election.
Jim Light February 10, 2013 at 09:37 PM
I have said from the start that I doubt AES would sue. If their application gets denied, suing the City over the zoning would eventually delay the return on investment for their stockholders and alienate those who would eventually have to approve any development on their site anyway. And they must know Measure A is on solid legal ground. As you have pointed out in previous posts, and as AES Southland President has testified they can't just walk away, they are liable for the contamination on the site. I think the likely scenario is that once Measure A passes and the CEC denies their application, AES will attempt to negotiate with the City for whatever zoning they feel is more equitable. I believe AES understands how powerful Measure A is if passed. And they are pulling out the stops to try to defeat it. We know they spent about $160K on TV ads. And we are getting bombarded with mailings with all manner of fear mongering with no substantiation. They are paying residents to be their mouthpieces. They have bought billboards. They have their surrogates doing personal smear campaigns on Bill Brand and me. And they have been threatening lawsuit from day one. AES is desperate and will seemingly resort to any tactic to scare people from voting for Measure A. Thanks for contributing your reasoned and expert voice to the debate! It is a breath of fresh air!
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 10:02 PM
For my neighbors who worry that Measure A's re-zoning AES property = a "taking" of private property: have no fear! Have a look at the UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT case of Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Commission. There, the Court said "[W]hen the owner of real property has been called upon to sacrifice ALL economically beneficial uses in the name of the common good...he has suffered a taking." That is not what Measure A is all about. Measure A allows AES to sell its land, develop its land, and do whatever is most economically beneficial for its shareholders with the land, which is worth how many hundreds of millions of dollars? It is OK for zoning to diminish the value of land; it is not OK for zoning to take away all economic value of the land. That is the important distinction that our Supreme Court teaches. I respectfully challenge AES, or its lawyers, or its hired public relations companies, or its hired "astroturf" citizens groups, or Craig Huey, or Councilman Kilroy, or Councilman Aust, or Councilman Diels, or any person who has spouted this "eminent domain" and "takings" legal claim, to show me why my analysis is wrong. If you can't, then it is time for new leadership in this City, because we the people are not getting our money's worth from City Council Members who are not lawyers but who repeat legal opinions that AES wants them to repeat. Again, I make this challenge with all due respect to the good intentions of my neighbors and City Council.
David Mallen February 10, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Jim: I appreciate your kind words and hard work as much as I appreciate the input of my neighbors who oppose Measure A. I was talking to my boys about Measure A, and about how AES claims it will decrease the value of their property. I explained that zoning laws allow property values to be diminished sometimes for the good of the city and the public. It happens every day. So, to make sure AES leaves with a smile in 2020, we came up with the idea of having a "bake sale" to say goodbye to AES and to donate a few dollars to the shareholders of this 18 Billion Dollar worldwide energy company. Who's with us? Bake Sale for AES in 2020!!!
john miller February 12, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Has anyone taken any soil samples on that property ? Could we be opening a can of worms ? I would hope that someone has checked in to this . I believe that property was once a wet land. The cost of cleaning up heavy metals in the soil might be pretty expensive .
Jim Light February 12, 2013 at 01:06 AM
John, The pollution at the site is well characterized and monitored. AES and SCE have he responsibility to clean up the site. AES Southland President testified clean up will not likely cost much as it is offset by the salvage value of the facility and its components.
john miller February 12, 2013 at 06:44 AM
Thanks Jim
Jim Light February 12, 2013 at 03:19 PM
You're welcome!
Wolfman February 12, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Tony, I voted yes on Measure A because I do not trust any power,utility,oil,waterservice company just look at that AES-Edison mess down there with all the $$money they make from us they won't even keep the place clean and presentable we should be sueing AES for being a city slumlord.
Jim Light February 12, 2013 at 05:38 PM
Alright Wolfman!
Grant Patterson February 12, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Wolfman, I will be joining you to vote yes on Measure A. I have heard enough educated people give facts that support measure A to make a decision. I haven't heard any facts from the other side that support the need for another power plant.
mark schoennagel February 12, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Two weeks ago some removed my Yes on A and Bill Brand signs from my yard. It wasnt the wind as frame and all mysteriously vanished over the weekend It goes both ways Tony.
Fred Reardon February 13, 2013 at 05:36 AM
Already voted Yes for Measure A via mail-in, absentee, ballot! Make sure you submit your absentee ballots on or before election day. Mail-in ballots must be submitted in a timely manner. Postmarks do not count If received after election day. Stand up and do the right thing for Redondo Beach's future. Let's get rid of this unwanted and unneeded additional noise, landscape, and air pollution. Don't miss this opportunity that we all have waited years for...to rid our community of this toxic plume. Register, mail in your absentee ballot, or visit the voting booth on election day and please vote Yes on Measure A.
David Mallen March 03, 2013 at 09:30 PM
From a conversation I had this morning with one of the finest coastal land-use attorneys in California: "If AES is foolish enough to sue after Measure A passes, the Court will dismiss the AES case within a few months and order AES to pay the City's attorneys' fees under the anti-SLAPP laws of California Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16."

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