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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.

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