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The World After Measure A

Measure A has come and gone. The real decision on zoning the AES property lies somewhere out in the future.

The property is zoned for a power plant or a park. No one who understands the reality of the situation believes it will remain that way.

The no power plant leaders will probably begin telling their followers to gear up for the big battle over approval of the AES re-powering application. There will be no big battle.

Remember, these are the same people who told you Measure A was crucial to the outcome of the war for control of the AES land. Now that they’ve lost, they’re very carefully planning how they will tell you it wasn’t as important as they told you it was.

You may hear about how important it will be for everyone to attend the California Energy Commission (CEC) hearings. Don’t forget, these are the same people who told you the world would end if Measure A wasn’t passed.

Think about it. Do you believe there’s anything new about a group of people in a community opposing a power plant? Do you think the CEC hasn’t seen placards, noisy people in the hall, unruly people in the hearing room and every other potential means of getting an opposing message in front of them? Anything NPP might attempt will be about as routine as morning coffee and it will have about the same impact.

The CEC will decide to approve or disapprove the AES application based on a set of criteria that will take little notice of public disapproval. There are really just two probable outcomes.

If the CEC Approves the AES Application, there will be little anyone can do to prevent AES from beginning to build their new power plant. Before Measure A there was a chance a legal argument could have been made that the community opposed the power plant and lawyers could have tried for an injunction to prevent construction.

Now, AES can rightfully say the community was given a chance to voice its opposition through Measure A and it did not. I can’t think of any valid or semi-valid arguments that NPP could use to prevent the bulldozers from going to work on the eastern portion of the AES property if they get their permits approved. But the Never Build Anything in Redondo people never cease to surprise me so there’s always a possibility they’ll come up with something.

If the CEC denies the AES application and AES exhausts its appeals and legal options for reversing or circumventing that decision, we end up with a humongous, obsolete power plant on a piece of property that can’t be used for anything other than a power plant or a park. So I guess the city will just build a park.

It turns out there are a few obstacles to that plan even though the current zoning is favorable. First, a public corporation owns the land. Public corporations have an obligation to deliver value to their shareholders. There would be no shareholder value to a park unless the land was purchased from AES at a price that benefitted the corporation.

I’ve heard about some conservation society or something that’s going to “help” the park people acquire the land. Remember, these are the same people who told you Measure A was essential to the future of the city and the same people who are about to tell you Measure A wasn’t as important to the war against AES as carrying placards in Sacramento.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Where’s the check to buy the AES property? Answer…there is no check. No one on this earth is going to pay AES fair market value for that property so they can build a park. No way, no how.

I’ve issued this challenge before. If the money’s there, buy it now. If not, please stop trying to get people to believe this fairy tale.

So if the permit gets approved, we’re at a stalemate. AES can sit and wait for someone to come along and give them fair market value for the property with the existing buildings and equipment. But the only thing anyone can use that property for is a park. How long do you think we’ll have to wait for someone to come along and offer to buy the land and remove the old power plant to build a park?

If the permit gets denied, we’re at a stalemate. AES doesn’t get to begin building its new plant but we still have a power plant on a piece of property that can only be used for a park.

I recently wrote that the reason why the AES property is currently zoned for a park is because of the contribution of the small group of people that became No Power Plant. They insisted on it and the city leadership acquiesced. No one else in the city wanted to restrict the potential uses of that property.

So regardless of the CEC decision, we’re headed for a stalemate that will guarantee the power plant remains where it is for the foreseeable future thanks to the people who brought you Measure A. They haven’t had a plan from day one and they don’t have a plan now.

They were right about one thing. Zoning of that land will have to change before the power plant is removed and the community gets to use the land for something else.

I’d love to see residential zoning for the property. Maybe this community could plan some affordable housing that would allow young couples to keep from having to move to Montana or to allow mom or dad to stay in the city once they’ve sold the family home. The possibilities are endlessly exciting and the defeat of Measure A gets us one step closer to having the community, not a small special interest group, decide what to do with that property.

Voters may or may not get to approve the new zoning that our city government ultimately produces for the AES property. City Charter Section 27.4, the result of Measure DD, states, “Each major change in allowable land use shall be put to a vote of the People.”

Who will decide whether changing the AES zoning qualifies as a “major change”? My guess would be high priced attorneys. Start saving your money now because we’ll all have to pay their fees.

If the zoning changes necessary to make something happen on the AES property end up on the ballot, those of us who fought and won Measure G and Measure A will find ourselves fighting for our city’s future once again. My gut tells me the momentum has shifted in our favor. We’ll see.

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