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Blog: Plans, Power Lines, and Property Rights

With the Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative destined for the March ballot, the rhetoric escalates.

This is a fun one with lots of alliteration! I’ve never had the joy of stringing so many “P’s” together since “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”.

With the Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative making progress toward getting on our March ballot, the campaign rhetoric is already starting to ramp up. The recent topics are plans, power lines and property rights.

Power Plant Property Plans

A fellow Patch blogger’s recent post boiled down to: AES has a plan for their property and opponents of the power plant do not. 

I agree AES has a plan for their property…but they are not sharing it with us.  While their website and mailer shows what appears to be green grass around their new power plant (which is crammed up against Catalina Avenue), it is clear they are planning mixed-use development. This could include everything from retail and restaurants to condos—they have not shared anything meaningful with the public. Note that AES’ current plan moves the plant much closer to Redondo high density neighborhoods. It is obvious this move is to maximize the capacity to develop the rest of their land. 

Under this scenario, residents lose twice. We get all the negative impacts of a power plant for fifty more years PLUS the impacts of other development on the same property. AES will not reveal details of their plan because that would push more voters to vote against their new plant. 

While my fellow blogger hails AES’ public presentation as a definitive plan, I challenge him to show us anything to the level of definition that is in the Power Plant Phae-Out Initiative. What is their mix of uses? What are their height caps and set backs? What is their Floor Area Ratio? What are their view protections?  What is their development cap? I am confident neither AES nor my fellow blogger will reveal these elements that are key elements of any REAL plan.

I disagree with my fellow blogger. The public has seen no plan from AES. Just promises of future resident participation and a big "trust us" card.

On the power plant opponent side, there is a plan, despite attacks from power plant proponents.

The initative zoning lays out a solid foundation of well defined zoning. We have defined the development cap, the mix of uses, maximum heights…. and many more details. And we have a plan to go from zoning to reality.  

First residents must pass the initiative that phases out the power plant. This would require the CEC to justify overriding our zoning in order to issue a permit to AES. Based on all the data available, we feel it very unlikely that the CEC could make a compelling case justifying they have no alternative but to override the will of the voters. We just don’t think that would happen—it's politically untenable and not ethically justifiable based on current data. 

As soon as the zoning is in place we work with the State Coastal Conservancy to execute a strategy and garner funds to purchase the public portion of the AES property. The Coastal Conservancy has until the 2018 to 2020 to get everything to line up—more than enough time. During this time we will complete the public visioning that will determine the final uses of the public open space.  In parallel we start working with AES for the commercial/institutional portion of their property. We already have developers who have expressed interest.

Contrary to my fellow bloggers previous assertion, the residents' plan is far more definitized than AES' by any definition.

Power Lines

Recently, AES told the public that the power lines up 190th cannot be removed if the power plant is eliminated. This is misleading at best. 

While a detailed power flow analysis is required (and has been requested by State Sen. Ted Lieu), it our understanding that indeed there is an important grid interconnect that occurs in the AES property substation. But according to independent power consultants, that tie can easily be made at a substation near the 405. While AES is correct that the lines are currently required without a power plant, that does not mean reconfiguring the grid to eliminate the need for these lines is either difficult or expensive.

AES conveniently neglects to make this point as it works against their case. This is another case of AES misrepresenting the situation to influence voters.

Property Rights

Recently Mayor Gin and AES paid residents have been actively fighting for AES using the property rights argument. But if you peel back the onion, the argument has no basis and for Mayor Gin, his position is actually disingenuous.

1)  No land owner has the “right” to negatively impact the community around them.

AES has no right to pollute our air, decrease property values, decrease business revenues and blight our harbor area. There is no way to rebuild their power plant without having these substantive negative impacts on the surrounding community.

2) No company has the “right” to build a power plant.

No company can buy land, even land zoned for power plant uses and just start building a large natural gas fired power plant. They have to get permits from state entities, like the California Energy Commission, the Air Quality Management District, the State Water Resources Control Board, and others.

In this case, under current zoning, “power generation” is a “conditional use” subject to city council approval. The Council can deny any application to build a new power plant for any number of reasons… air pollution, noise, incompatibility with the surrounding neighbor hood, etc. Now in this case the CEC can override the City, but none-the-less current zoning clearly spells out that AES does not have a “right” to build a power plant.

AES knew this when they bought the plant in 1998. They knew they could expect revenue through the end of their current contract which expires in 2018.  Anything beyond that was pure speculation. You can bet that AES made their investment decision based on the current contract revenues alone. 

3)  The City has the “right” to change zoning for the welfare of the community

Cities have the right to change zoning for the welfare of the community. In fact zoning laws are in place to ensure adjacent land uses will work together without undue impact on one another. Clearly, a large natural gas fired power plant has a negative impact on the community. The City has ample documentation of the negative fiscal, environmental and blighting impacts of the power plant. The city has every right to change this zoning.

4) The City has exercised its power to change zoning regularly

While there are numerous examples, the largest zoning in recent history occurred in 1992. In 1992 the City Council passed a new general plant and new zoning ordinances that decreased the allowed density on most of the multi-family properties throughout Redondo and changed a large percentage of commercial and industrial properties to residential condo zoning, eliminating the current commercial or industrial use. 

An entire strip of industrial properties on Ruxton Lane was rezoned to condos.  Now it is all condos. Where was the cry of property rights for those companies? And if you own residential property that is zoned multi-family, your property was likely down zoned in 1992. Where was the cry of the property rights for those thousands of property owners?

5) The City denies development plans regularly

The City regularly exercises its authority to deny development plans. Here is where Mayor Gin is being really disingenuous. A few years back, the owner of multiple properties along PCH applied to redevelop his property. His plan complied with all the zoning requirements but required a “conditional use permit.” The property owner made concessions to address neighborhood concerns on height, parking and traffic. The Planning Commission approved  the plan. That decision was appealed. The Council voted for it, with Councilman Aspel voting against it and Councilman Cagle recusing himself. But then Mayor Gin vetoed it on the grounds it was incompatible with the neighborhood. Somehow Mayor Gin seems to forget this when he makes his case against rezoning AES’ property.

Special treatment?

Why does AES get or deserve special treatment? Clearly, there is no development in Redondo that is more incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Clearly there is no development that is more impactful. And AES has been anything but a good neighbor. I live over a mile from the plant, yet I have been woken up in the middle of the night by their steam venting. The negative fiscal and environmental impacts have been well documented. AES sued residents who supported the UUT ballot measure that would have caused AES to pay their fair share of utility taxes that we all pay. And now to get their way, AES continues to threaten lawsuit on Redondo every step of the way. So AES is arguably the worst neighbor anyone could ever have.   

But yet, somehow, opposing AES’ plan to build a new power plant has been painted as a “property rights” issue… while all of the other examples above were not? 

That, fellow reader, makes absolutely no sense. 

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.

Paul David Moses November 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM
The initiative process makes incredible strides where Government fails. It is direct democracy in action. The No Power Plant organization works very hard to create a brighter future for our community. They will be commended by everyone who benefits from their efforts. The Power Plant Phase-Out Initiative sends a loud and clear message to the California Energy Commission of total elimination of power generation in our beautiful, beach side community. "No land owner has the “right” to negatively impact the community around them." Well written Jim.

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