Monthly Archives: February 2013


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A Message to Redondo Beach Voters in Districts 1 and 2

When you do some things that no one ever did before, you may be considered innovative. Other times, you realize when it’s too late there was a good reason no one ever did what you’ve just done.

No other city anywhere in the state, the country or the world ever passed a ballot initiative that re-zoned the land under a utility while it was still operating and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If you’re thinking about voting for Measure A and it passes, I believe you will soon realize there’s a good reason why no other city passed a similar initiative. Passing Measure A would certainly make Redondo Beach unique, but hardly innovative.

There are other things that happen in Redondo Beach that don’t seem to happen elsewhere. In my experience, when you’re elected to serve as part of a legislative body, you make a pledge to work within the structure of that body. You forgo your right to work against that body. You accept the fact you have only one vote. You recognize that sometimes your opinion will be in the minority. You accept the times you get outvoted.

The process of majority rule actually makes the body stronger than the sum of its parts. The legislative body makes a statement, we’re a team and the goals of the team and the work we were sent here to do is more important than the opinions of any individual team member.

It’s a little different in Redondo Beach. In late 2011 councilman Bill Brand gave the rest of the city council an ultimatum. Either you pass a resolution stating the city is against re-powering the AES plant or I’ll go outside the structure of the council to make that statement. He made good on that threat. He co-authored the document and promoted the petition that led to Measure A.

In my experience, when a legislator feels so strongly that the legislative body has taken a course that violates his or her fundamental beliefs, the legislator resigns. He or she may choose to work outside the legislative body or even against it to satisfy some deeply held conviction the legislative body did not share. They talk the talk and walk the walk.

Not in Redondo Beach. Councilman Brand continues to sit on the council. He even pulled papers for a re-election campaign shortly after the process that led to Measure A was begun.

The city doesn’t have any guidelines to prevent this kind of disruptive action because it’s never happened before. When people believe so strongly that some government action is wrong, they take a stand against the government. Has anyone ever heard about someone standing with the government and against the government at the same time?

Would you call Brand’s stand a semi-conviction? If he and his fellow insurgents picket outside city hall, will he have to cross his own picket line to conduct his city hall duties? If it turns violent, will he pelt himself with rocks and bottles?

The city conducts a portion of the business between itself and AES in closed sessions. Bill Brand has excluded himself from some of those sessions on the advice of the city attorney. So as business between the city and AES increases, we could expect a re-elected councilman Brand to be barred from fully participating in more city council proceedings because of his extracurricular legislative activities.

Along comes Bill Brand’s sidekick, Jim Light, who’s running for city council in District 1. He’s the co-author of Measure A so if he were elected, the same rules would apply to him in matters concerning AES.

So if Jim Light and Bill Brand get elected, the citizens of Districts 1 and 2 will send representatives to the city council who cannot fully participate in council proceedings. Anyone in Districts 1 or 2 who casts a vote for Light or Brand needs to truly believe that their representative can function effectively inside city government at the same time he’s fighting against city government. This doesn’t make any sense to me but like I said before, some things happen in Redondo Beach that don’t happen elsewhere.

This is their second initiative together, third if you count Measure G. Brand was on the council when he engaged in the actions that led to Measure A. Does anyone believe this is their last initiative? Does anyone in Districts 1 or 2 believe he or she will be fully represented by council members who invest so much energy in extracurricular legislative activities? If these guys got elected and don’t get their way, history shows us there will be more initiatives, more disruption, more wasted energy.

Read some of Jim Light’s blog post comments and you will see a person who’s so convinced he’s always right, he will spend endless amounts of time looking for little fragments of information that prove his arguments. Imagine that kind of a personality disorder in our city government. If you believe as I do the City Council accomplishes much less than it should accomplish, adding Jim Light will effectively paralyze the process.

I can’t think of an election for anything, anywhere in which two candidates could brag to voters about their work against the institution they want to get voted onto and stand any chance of winning the election. Add to that the guarantee they won’t be able to fully participate in council proceedings and the very real possibility they will create other disruptive initiatives during their council terms and you may feel what I feel when I think about the possibilities, fear.

I believe that in the end, the city of Redondo Beach will have to negotiate with AES. In the end, the city will need to compromise. If Measure A passes, it will do nothing but delay the inevitable and cause us to miss the opportunity to work with AES now, to get the best deal for the city of Redondo Beach.

Jim Light and Bill Brand have stated emphatically they will not compromise and they will not negotiate unless they get to define the basis for that negotiation. They’re willing to waste the taxpayers’ time and money pursuing a strategy that has very little chance of success. I’ve heard the Measure A camp state that under some circumstances, they will to sue the city . Are these the attitudes of people we want on the team that runs Redondo Beach? Can you really have a team with members who harbor deep resentment toward the institution they want you to vote them onto?

The city of Redondo Beach has big challenges ahead. We need leadership that understands and values cooperation over personal agenda and ego. I’m hoping the voters of Districts 1 and 2 will help Jim Light and Bill Brand continue to do what they do best, oppose, obstruct and disrupt. I’m just hoping the voters ensure they do it from outside Redondo Beach government rather than from inside and outside at the same time.

Does Particulate Matter, Matter?

The Jim Light/Bill Brand/Measure A Ticket in next month’s election uses a number of methods to convince voters to change zoning of the AES plant. One of their methods is the use of particulate estimates from the AES repowering application.

If the Light/Brand/A Ticket prevails, the city’s zoning will allow a park and limited commercial development on the AES property. Bill Brand has suggested 800 hotel rooms on the property could help fund his park.

Measure A is not a plan to build 800 hotel rooms. Neither were the zoning changes the Redondo Beach city council voted on in 2002 a plan to build 3000 condos. But the people behind the Light/Brand/A Ticket want you to believe the city was on the brink of building 3000 condos and they saved us from it. Back then, they objected to the remote possibility zoning changes would translate into a project to build condos, nothing more.

Let’s say someone, like me, felt the same way about Measure A for the same reasons, it will allow for the remote possibility of 800 new hotel rooms in the city. And let’s say while I’m trying to convince you this is a bad idea, I use air pollution as one of the reasons I think you should support an initiative I’ll call Measure Munns.

I would tell you something like this. Bill Brand’s estimate of 80% occupancy would translate to 640 rooms rented every day. Each one of those rooms would require one car or van trip to check in and one to check out. That’s 1280 car trips per day.

Then let’s assume the park attracts 200 visits per day. That’s one car trip in and one car trip out, 400 car trips for the park per day.

I’d also estimate the other allowed commercial uses such as a Birkenstock store, would need to get 500 visits per day or 1000 car trips. That turns out to be 2680 car trips per day, 365 days per year or 978,200 new car trips into and out of the city generated by Measure A.

We all know automobiles account for a vast majority of the air pollution we breathe. So on the basis of the facts above, I want you to vote for Measure Munns, which will change zoning to include absolutely no human use of the 50 acre AES property, because that’s really the only way to make it pollution free.

I know I’m right and everyone who opposes Measure Munns is wrong. But everyone other than a few of my closest friends might have a few questions.

You may want to know how much of that pollution is going to get into your lungs and the lungs of your family. You might want to see a model of how that pollution is actually distributed by things like prevailing winds and thermal air currents. You might also want to know how that increased pollution compares to pollution produced by alternative uses of that property.

The two biggest dots you might want me to connect for you are between the existence of an irrefutable increase in pollution and the effect on your health and the health of your family. I want you to agree with me and vote for Measure Munns but if I suggest everyone in the city will have emphysema in 5 years or your children will need to wear gas masks when they go to the beach, I’ll end up with no credibility and I’ll deserve no support.

So you, as a citizen, have a right to expect me to answer all those questions before you believe in Measure Munns enough to vote for it. Don’t you have the same right to get the same data from the Light/Brand/A Ticket before voting for Measure A?

The Light/Brand/A Ticket has invested considerable time and money to get your vote. What they haven’t invested in, is any kind of study that would answer all those questions about Measure A. If the Light/Brand/A Ticket is going to ask for your vote, don’t they owe you the most basic data on the effects of the pollution they’ve attempted to use to frighten you?

All I’ve seen so far is the particulate numbers provided by the AES application and statements by a couple doctors saying particulate matter is bad for our health. I think I can get the same doctors to say the same things about Measure Munns. If not, I’ll get some others.

Make no mistake, everything I mention above that you wouldn’t know about Measure Munns and that you don’t know about Measure A can be measured or fairly accurately estimated. Why hasn’t the Light/Brand/A Ticket spent some of its money providing you with those measurements and estimates?

Because while the Light/Brand/A Ticket hopes Measure A will be about pollution for you, it isn’t about pollution for them. If AES announced tomorrow that the new power plant would produce nothing but pure oxygen and Perrier, the Light/Brand/A Ticket wouldn’t skip a beat. They’d find a whole new set of reasons why you should let them plan our city’s future. A NO vote on Measure A is a YES vote for Redondo Beach.

Does the Truth Matter?

If you want me to vote for a person or an idea, you better tell me the truth. Because as soon as I find out you aren’t telling me the truth, not only do you lose any chance of my support, you guarantee my opposition.

I’ve expressed my opposition to Measure A in the past for a number of reasons, it’s a stupid idea, it’s unprecedented, it isn’t supported by any public officials other than a few locals who may well see their property values increase substantially by removing the power plant.

So for me, misrepresenting facts is just one more reason to oppose Measure A but it’s also an important reason. Taking liberties with the truth says a lot about the nature of the argument and the integrity of the people making the argument.

Here’s an example. I got an email plea to support Measure A that included this statement. “Around 2000, AES worked with the City to squeeze zoning for 1,500 condos on their property. The City released this as the Heart of the City plan in 2002. Shockingly, our Planning Commission and City Council approved this plan unanimously despite strong resident opposition. “

The truth is that Heart of the City was never approved by the city council. In fact, it was never voted on by the city council. The truth matters.

Here’s another example. City council re-election candidate Bill Brand sent a message to potential voters that included this statement to support his claim that Measure A will produce $8.4 million in revenue for the city. “Do the math, it’s easy! 800 hotel rooms x $300/room x 365days x .8 (80%occupancy) x 0.12 = $8,409,600/year just from bed tax on the hotel rooms… “

Well, here’s the real math. Redondo Beach currently has about 1000 hotel rooms. They get about 75% occupancy. That means on an average night 750 hotel rooms are paid for and occupied.

Most informed observers agree Redondo Beach doesn’t need 800 new hotel rooms. Do you know why? We can only rent 750 of the 1000 we have now. Do the math, it’s easy!

If we were renting somewhere near the 1000 room capacity on a consistent basis, an argument could be made to add some more but probably not 80% more. Unless something changes like they move the airport or Disneyland closer to Redondo Beach, we will host approximately 750 hotel room renters per night for the foreseeable future.

Bill Brand and Jim Light don’t understand these basic facts yet they want you to allow them to guide our city’s policies for the next 4 years as council members and for much more than 4 years by passing Measure A. Suggesting Redondo Beach needs 800 new hotel rooms can only be one of two things, ignorance or an attempt to mislead.

A small army of volunteers got some smart and responsible people to sign the petition to place Measure A on the ballot by asking them if they wanted to sign a petition that would get rid of the power plant.

The truth is, Measure A will change the zoning of the AES land. It has absolutely no power to shut down the power plant nor does it have any effect on the process AES has embarked on to get a new permit from the California Energy Commission. The truth matters.

In other words, Measure A does not get rid of the power plant. After 7,000 Redondo residents were tricked into signing the petition, Bill Brand stated these facts in public testimony in front of the RB School Board.

If you were one of the citizens who was duped into signing the petition or if you’ve been following the war of words over Measure A, that has to be extremely confusing. Did you believe Measure A would shut down the power plant? If so, why was Councilman Brand telling the school board Measure A will not shut down the power plant?

Here’s a question for my fellow Redondo Beach voters. If the truth matters to you as much as it does to me, don’t you have to wonder why it doesn’t matter as much to Bill Brand and Jim Light?

From Rust to Dust, The Round Building Comes Down

demosmallFor 20 years the centerpiece of the Redondo pier stood as a monument to the inaction of city government. It was called variously the round building, the octagonal building and Parcel 10. It became known as an eyesore, a monstrosity and a mess as it lay empty and decaying year after year.

It wasn’t always that way. Prior to the devastating pier fire in 1988 the round building housed a variety of restaurants on its two floors. People came to eat, drink and listen to music. The nearly 180 degree view of the Pacific made it a popular spot. By all accounts, the businesses that operated there through the years enjoyed success comparable to other businesses in the area.

Then the pier burned and after the spectacle viewing novelty wore off, the crowds diminished. Businesses that remained along the Redondo Beach waterfront suffered. The city took action to rebuild the pier in what could only be described as a flash in city government time, 7 years.

That’s when the first misstep occurred. The city decided to take possession of the round building and use it as a staging area for rebuilding the pier.

The tenant at the time wasn’t completely against walking away from a business that had suffered considerably from reduced foot traffic. But he expected to get paid for his pain and suffering. Lawyers sniffed a payday amidst the lingering fumes of burnt creosote. In the end, tax payers paid a hefty sum to settle with the leaseholder and the city took possession of the property.

As recently as 4 years ago there was talk about finding a tenant for the round building. City staff issued requests for proposals and reportedly got a few responses. Around that time the discussion began to include the building’s structural integrity and whether or not a new tenant would have to tear it down and start over.

The Kosmont Companies prepared an asset management plan for the city. Among other things, it proposed consolidating city owned properties such as the round building with existing leases.

Longtime master lease holder Steve Shoemaker, who operates the Fun Factory, fit that description perfectly. In addition, he had a keen interest in building a carousel in that space. He brought a proposal to the city that included self-funding the entire project without any expectation of using taxpayer money.

The city rejected his offer. Members of the city council cited some unresolved and unrelated legal matters as a reason for rejecting Mr. Shoemaker’s proposal. That move left some observers wondering whether we were hearing the whole story. There was also speculation about whether Mr. Shoemaker had legal recourse against the city after his rejection. Neighbors and visitors to the pier got nothing except a few more years to watch the paint peel and the wood rot.

We have nature (and the threat of lawsuits) to thank for doing what our city government was unable to do for two decades. High winds in the past few weeks blew down a section of the makeshift structure covering the windows above the marina walkway. Fortunately, it happened at night and no one was hurt.

City staff alerted the city council of an imminent danger to public safety. The city entertained bids that ranged from $80,000 down to $30,000. They accepted the low bid with the understanding the project would get fast tracked.

The fences and sandbags went up the first week of February and demolition was complete before week’s end. The debris will get hauled away for another week and little more than a concrete slab will remain.

No doubt we will hear stories about all the fun people had at the round building, its unique architectural qualities and its contribution to our local culture. That may all be true but those positive elements came to an end long before the bulldozers started tearing it down.

To me, the demolition of the round building marks the first, substantial event in the resurrection of the Redondo Beach waterfront. So let’s hope it doesn’t take fires, windstorms or worse to get the rest of the job done.