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Trading our harbor for a shopping center

The CenterCal plan would hide our harbor behind over 100 stores and restaurants, a hotel, and two three story pay parking garages.
The CenterCal plan would hide our harbor behind over 100 stores and restaurants, a hotel, and two three story pay parking garages.

In his State of the City address, Mr. Aspel made some comments that speak volumes about the state of city government affairs in Redondo.  Space does not permit me to address the breadth of the implications of his statements so for this piece I will focus on the CenterCal waterfront mall. 

It seems Mr. Aspel takes exception to using the term “mall” for this project.  And no wonder, through the years the term  “mall” has earned a negative connotation.  So the industry developed a new term:  “lifestyle center”.   The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) dictionary  states a  lifestyle center  “contains national chain specialty stores with dining and entertainment in an open air setting.”  It seems no one uses the term “mall” anymore.   Plaza El Segundo, Manhattan Village, Del Amo Fashion Center, Rolling Hills Plaza, and Promenade on the Peninsula all label themselves as “lifestyle centers”.  

But therein lays the problem.  These national chain shopping and restaurant centers are all cookie cutter stores and restaurants.  Local flavor is virtually non-existent ; thus they all compete directly with one another.  In order to make ends meet, CenterCal is packing in more development than Plaza El Segundo into an area one third the size.  That drives a solid wall of two and three story development separating us from our beloved harbor.  But, are there enough customers to go around? 

For CenterCal’s mall to be successful, they will have to attract over 20,000 car trips per weekday and 30,000 trips on Saturday and Sunday.  And that is without the new boat ramp.  Currently PCH carries 40,000 cars per day through Redondo and our three main PCH intersections are already at or over capacity.  Harbor Drive, Beryl, and Torrance Boulevard, the three main entrances to the harbor area, cannot handle this traffic.  And then there’s the parking.  Due to space limitations, CenterCal proposes two massive three story pay parking lots, one at Beryl and one in the current location to cram in these expected customers.  Will customers subject themselves to traffic jams, cutting across the new bike lanes, and paying to park in parking structures rather than go to Plaza El Segundo, Manhattan Village, the Del Amo Fashion Center, the Galleria, and/or Rolling Hills Plaza with their major artery access and free parking? 

Without that many customers every day, the CenterCal “lifestyle center” runs the very real risk of becoming an overdeveloped, run-down, crime-ridden Ports-of-Call… or closer to home… the failed Pier Plaza.

Aspel praises CenterCal for saving the city $25 million.  I will address this fuzzy math in a subsequent article, but I view it quite differently.  Our City is frantically applying for state grants and redirecting Moonstone Park funds to spruce up our harbor for CenterCal’s mall.  What the city cannot scrape together we will borrow from, get this, CenterCal.    To add insult to injury, the sweetheart agreement the City gifted to CenterCal lets CenterCal use our 15 acres of prime waterfront property rent free for 30 years unless CenterCal makes 10% profit first.  And while our City is scrambling for CenterCal, CenterCal has already missed a key deadline in that agreement. ..the submission of a detailed project description.  Obviously, Mr. Aspel neglected mentioning this in his address.  When you put all the pieces together, CenterCal is not saving the City $25M.  Rather, our Council is giving CenterCal our waterfront and selling out our quaint harbor for a risky shopping center. 

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.

Jim Light March 04, 2014 at 10:46 AM
Here, here Mr. T. The vast majority of folks agree that the harbor needs a facelift. But, the City Council/staff tries to paint that it is this mall or nothing. There is a wide variety of options between nothing and a mall. And that is what many of us have been striving for for years. With the proposed mall, assuming it would be successful, after all the development, all the traffic, the loss of views and the loss of character in our harbor, the City realizes a net gain of just $2M per year. The pier parking lot produces $1.8M per year. It seems like we are losing a lot for a very, very small gain.
South Bay by Jackie March 04, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Jim, I thought you were referring to Pier Plaza in Hermosa! My bad.
Jim Light March 04, 2014 at 06:22 PM
Jackie - no worries! C. Smith - if you read my previous post on this blog, it was not about failure at all. It was about the opportunity to free our harbor of its blighting, polluting eyesore - the power plant. And this article examined the impacts of success (traffic) and the possibility of failure. I have never advocated doing nothing. I have participated in City and later CenterCal meetings and workshops and proposed viable alternative waterfront solutions, ideas and visions since 1999.
Jack Charles March 05, 2014 at 01:54 PM
Thanks for shining a bright light on this, Jim. Much appreciated.
Ralph Dunn March 16, 2014 at 06:02 AM
This mall is a really bad idea ! Any mall has a hard time making a go of it, and success is temporary at best. Remember the Old-Town mall in Torrance? The Carson mall is struggling. The Del Amo mall and Fashion Center gradually lost tenants over the years, until it built the outdoor wing a few years ago, and is now doing a major remodeling. When Nordstroms moves to Del Amo from RB's South Bay Galleria, the Galleria will have problems. Better to spend a modest sum cleaning up, fixing up and improving what you already have at King Harbor. Add to this the fact that if you consider a, say, six-mile area surrounding King Harbor, half of it is populated only by fish (who do not shop at malls). People will go to the seashore to drink and dine, but seldom to buy shoes. The mall operators will probably never make the nut to share revenues with the city of RB, so kiss that off. In fact they will probably have to request additional concessions from RB to keep afloat. BAIL OUT, CITY OF RB, WHILE THERE IS STILL TIME !! FOR GOD'S SAKE, BAIL OUT !!

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