Category Archives: City Government

A discussion of the present and future city government in Redondo Beach


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Trojan Boat Ramp

Remember the story of the Trojan horse (nothing to do with USC)? The Greeks and Trojans were engaged in an epic battle. One day, the Trojans awoke to find a huge wooden horse standing outside their city gates. The Greek army was nowhere to be seen.

The Trojans figured their enemies had given up and honored Troy’s victory by building the horse, which was the ancient city’s mascot. They opened the gates and rolled in the statue.

The Trojans partied while the Greeks hidden inside the horse waited patiently. You probably know the rest. The Greeks piled out of the horse after the Trojans passed out and defeated them from inside, rather than outside the walled city.

The concept of a Trojan horse has become a metaphor for sneaking anything that’s disguised as something else past unsuspecting observers who choose to see what’s presented to them rather than what’s hidden inside. Measure C contains just such a Trojan horse in the form of a boat ramp.

Measure C supporters would tell you there’s nothing hidden about the boat ramp but I beg to differ. Granted, there’s nothing hidden about the fact the boat ramp could kill the CenterCal project all by itself.

By my estimate, the boat ramp would take 20%-25% of the land available for development. The ramp won’t generate any significant revenue. In addition to reducing the potential revenue-generating land, a ramp would cost the developer money.

One thing that’s hidden in Measure C’s language is the fact the ramp described in the initiative and the necessary space for parking and maneuvering vehicles could only fit one place, the area bordered by Samba, Captain Kidd’s and R/10.

Samba would get demolished to make way for the ramp. The entire parking area from the driveway behind the tollbooth to the water would be devoted to trailer/vehicle parking.

If you like the walkway between the fishing pier and South Bay Sailing, voting for Measure C may allow you to continue to enjoy a marina view from that long stretch of open sidewalk. Unfortunately, there will be a portion of that stroll that will tilt down to the water and require you to dodge boat trailers and trucks during your walk.

Measure C requires, “…safe launch and recovery in surge conditions…” I recently observed a surge of about three to four feet in the area of the Measure C boat ramp, on a fairly calm day. There were no waves breaching the breakwater, even at the lowest part near the harbor entrance.

The only way I can see to reduce surge in the area of the marina where surge is greatest (the boat ramp location) would be to build a detached breakwater inside the harbor. Can you imagine removing even more of the already tiny recreational space inside King Harbor? Probably not and it’s just as likely the state and federal agencies that would need to approve such an obstruction to navigation wouldn’t be able to imagine it either.

For that reason and others, it would be impossible to meet the boat ramp requirements written into Measure C. Measure C’s authors either didn’t think it through carefully or they didn’t care. Or…they want to add impossible requirements to our current zoning.

I have a boat on a trailer sitting in my driveway. I served six years as the Boater’s Representative on the RB Harbor Commission. Boats and boat ramps are important to me and many other potential beneficiaries of a King Harbor boat ramp.

That’s probably why it irritates me to see a boat ramp used by non-boaters to further their political agenda. A vote for Measure C is a vote for stalemate, more regulation and status quo. Allow King Harbor to become more than it is today. Vote NO on Measure C.

Supersized Regulations

You will see various Redondo city documents refer to the harbor area between Torrance Boulevard and Herondo as the Harbor Enterprise. Like most successful enterprises, the Redondo Beach Harbor Enterprise generates a substantial amount of money. Benefits of that cash are enjoyed by everyone in and around the city.

Lots of families pay their mortgages or rent, pay for their kids’ daycare, healthcare and much more with the money they make within the Harbor Enterprise. Their very existence comes from the work they do in that relatively small plot of land. Many of us derive great pleasure from the time we spend boating, fishing, swimming or just relaxing in and around King Harbor.

The Redondo Beach Harbor Enterprise makes enough money to pay all its own expenses and then some. Even those of us who don’t work in or even visit the harbor enjoy the benefits of that financial success.

Regulation is necessary to keep business from interfering with the public good. Elected officials at all levels of government spend a considerable amount of time crafting regulations that protect the public while enabling business to succeed and thrive. We expect them to find the balance between protecting the public’s interests and allowing businesses to succeed. Over-regulation upsets that balance. Business suffers as a result.

I recently read the proposed language for Measure C, the ballot initiative that claims it will “Revitalize not Supersize!”. The citizens of Redondo Beach are being asked to enact this extremely complex set of restrictive rules that I can only describe as the worst case of over-regulation I’ve seen in years. Every voter in Redondo Beach should read the document posted on the city web site before stepping into the voting booth. http://www.redondo.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=31297

You have to ask yourself, do I really care about most of this stuff? Do things like the type of keys used in hotel rooms matter to me? Do I really care about how long a hotel owner maintains records of room rental rates? Do I want to approve a boat ramp that will take away 120 parking spaces directly adjacent to the harbor without conducting a study to see if any of those parking spaces will ever be used by boat owners?

Perhaps the most important questions are, who thinks 27 pages of incomprehensible, new regulations are a good thing for Redondo Beach and why do they try so hard to sell it to us?

The citizens of Redondo Beach approved Measure G in 2010. It took years of hard work by city councils, mayors, commissions, city staff , consultants, and citizens to come up with that complex set of regulations. A majority of voters agreed, those land use guidelines were what we needed to move forward with reasonable redevelopment of King Harbor. An additional 27 pages of regulations was not needed then and it is not needed now.

The proponents of Measure C say it was “…written by residents for residents”. I’m a resident of Redondo Beach. I didn’t write this business-crushing set of unnecessary regulations. Did you?

A Call to Action

Those who oppose or as I call them, The Opponents, are at it again. They held a press conference recently announcing their intention to get an initiative on the ballot that will propose scaled back development (I’m paraphrasing. I wasn’t there). I don’t really feel obligated to supply the details here. You can get them pretty easily elsewhere.

This initiative should be stopped before it gets approved for the ballot. As a community, I believe we have the ability to do exactly that.

If you look deeper into the backgrounds of the people who lead the charge for the status quo you will find they work for big companies like American Airlines and Northrop Grumman. They work for companies they did nothing to build. Their jobs were just there when they applied. All they had to do was get someone in the company to tell them they were hired. No one among them knows the least bit about business or community planning yet they believe they should be allowed to dictate to this community what it will and will not do with its most valuable resource.

I do believe they understand that if they can thwart a project that is capable of supporting itself financially by promising to scale down development, they can eliminate development altogether. The beauty of that plan is that they can create an environment in which no developer would touch King Harbor, then come away saying, “we were all for development, just not as much as the city council approved.”

The most important thing the people of this community can do now to ensure we get a waterfront we can all use and enjoy is to get out and stand side by side with the paid operatives they will have collecting signatures for their initiative. We need to talk to our neighbors while the people from out of state holding clipboards pretend to know our city and try to get them to support yet another plan…to have no plan.

We need to mobilize. We need to stand in front of Von’s and Whole Foods and go one-on-one with their paid operatives. Before our friends and neighbors provide their signatures, we need to have a few seconds to explain to them why an initiative would scuttle the CenterCal plan and leave us with no plan and little hope of transforming our waterfront to match the needs of this community in this century.

I’m ready to sign up to pull some shifts around the city and to help educate my fellow citizens. Are you?

Vision and Opportunity, King Harbor’s Future and Its Past

A twenty-year career in recreational boating afforded me some insights into that industry and the places where people enjoy their recreational boats. I often called on that expertise during my two terms on the Redondo Beach Harbor Commission.

The boat business taught me many things, not least of which was to look for other examples of any endeavor I was about to undertake. So as I examine the inevitable conversations that have arisen around the Redondo Beach waterfront development plans, I find myself looking at other harbors for answers.

Recreational boating didn’t exist when most of the major U. S. harbors began taking shape. People, goods and commodities crossed oceans and moved along coastlines by ship. Harbors and bays were places where ships could load and unload their cargo and passengers. Warships used coastal harbors during and between wars.

Up and down the east coast, fortunes of places like Portland, Maine, Boston and New York ebbed and flowed with changing trends in transportation, war and society. Wooden shipbuilding, once the lifeblood of many northeast port cities, disappeared in the early 20th century. Steel hulls required a different set of natural resources, tools and skills. It was no longer necessary to set up shop near forests and logging operations to ensure the supply of lumber.

Railroads spread out like a spider’s web connecting cities and towns. Farmers discovered it was cheaper to send their crops and livestock to larger ports by rail instead of using smaller, local ports.

Industries such as whaling boomed for a while then nearly disappeared. Harbors that were once home to whaling fleets, vibrant wooden shipbuilding industries and transshipment of agricultural products adapted and evolved to accommodate changing times.

History of west coast ports doesn’t stretch back as far as that of their east coast cousins but we see the same patterns. The Navy had a substantial base in Long Beach for nearly a century. It included a shipyard and shore side facilities including housing and a hospital.

Most of the Navy’s activities in Long Beach were curtailed by 2000. The shipyard, docking and land facilities have been converted to accommodate commercial shipping. Every harbor I know that has been used as a harbor for any substantial amount of time has undergone change due to the changing needs of the community that uses it.

Redondo Beach had a robust commercial harbor around the time the Navy began expanding in Long Beach. Mariners discovered the deep water trench leading up to what’s now King Harbor enabled them to bring in deep-draft ships laden with lumber and other materials needed to support a growing population.

A shift in commercial shipping to the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach forced Redondo Beach to repurpose itself. The 225-room Hotel Redondo helped the city transition into a popular tourist destination. Reliable rail and steamer service made it easy to get here. (For a much more rich and detailed account of Redondo’s history visit the historical society, www.redondohistorical.org)

The industry that had serviced commercial shipping moved south and a new industry devoted to tourism took its place. The embedded community grew along with the hordes of visitors.

The next repurposing of Redondo’s harbor came in the early 1960s when the current breakwater was built to accommodate recreational boating. It became King Harbor. The transition may not have been as drastic as the change from commercial harbor to tourist destination but it allowed the city to diversify.

Leisure time had become an important part of American Life. King Harbor gave people access to fishing, recreational boating and other water-related activities. Numbers of people who came to enjoy the shore-side attractions grew even bigger than those who used King Harbor for boating.

We’re lucky. We don’t have to figure out how to change from a commercial harbor to something completely different or even how to accommodate a new population of recreational boaters. The transition facing us will not alter the purpose of King Harbor. Our little man-made water feature will still provide access to Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Our harbor will still have a collection of shops, restaurants and other recreational attractions adjacent to the water.

Proposed development plans will consist of some fairly basic reconfiguring, some rehabilitation and rebuilding but that’s about it. The bulkheads that make up the shore-side contour of the harbor will remain the same. The moles that were created by dumping thousands of tons of fill behind concrete bulkheads will remain unchanged. The breakwater made from huge quarried boulders and arranged to define the outer contour of the harbor won’t change. When you look at harbors that transition from commercial to recreational or others that change due to quantum shifts in an economy or a society, the proposed changes to King Harbor seem more like redecorating than repurposing.

Those of us who support the Centercal plan believe it’s time to move from the harbor that served our community’s needs when it was built in the 60s, to something that’s more relevant to the world we live in today. Clearly, times have changed since the 60s. Someone cryogenically frozen in that period of history and thawed out today (Austin Powers?) wouldn’t recognize our travel, recreation, information and entertainment options. Yet, the South Bay’s premier waterfront complex hasn’t changed in any substantial way in the last half century.

You can visit harbors such as Mystic Seaport in Connecticut and see all the elements of a working harbor from a bygone era, the 1800s. They build wooden ships with hand tools that were forged by a blacksmith. It’s fascinating. I go there whenever I get a chance.

The people of Mystic Connecticut chose to use a portion of their community’s seaside resources as a museum. They entertain thousands of people every year and treat them to an education they couldn’t get otherwise.

Have the people of Redondo Beach chosen to use part of our seaside resources as a working museum that exhibits a southern California coastal waterfront from the 1960s? That’s what we have here and I can tell anyone who hasn’t been to Mystic Seaport, our 60s museum lacks all the charm and educational aspects of that wonderful place in Connecticut. Ours is just old and run down.

Even though the people of Redondo Beach have not chosen to make their waterfront a 1960s museum, the possibility exists it will remain exactly that. If the small minority of Redondo citizens who oppose the Centercal project were somehow able to derail waterfront development by making good on their threats of ballot initiatives and lawsuits, we could all bear witness to the continued decline or our city’s most valuable and unique resource, its harbor.

If you think that’s an unwarranted accusation against our progress-phobic neighbors, consider the defeat of Measure B. I won’t bother predicting what happens to the property that contains the AES power plant. I will predict that whatever ends up on that land will be a lot less desirable than the community that Measure B would have enabled. I will also predict Redondo Beach will host the current monstrosity for at least another generation.

I watched the Centercal video http://thewaterfrontredondo.com/ and came away saying what I was supposed to say. “I want to go to this place. I want to go there now!”

Watch the video then take a walk through the Redondo Beach Marina property and up the International Boardwalk. We will all be asked to choose between those two options multiple times before any construction begins.

Amateur community planners will try to convince us they know a better way, a more desirable opportunity. What they’re actually offering is what they were offering when they opposed Measure B., status quo…an opportunity to leave things exactly the way they are now. In my humble opinion, that lack of vision offers no opportunity whatsoever.

Pseudo-facts

The existence of conflicting truths and facts make parts of modern life confusing. It’s no wonder people disengage from important issues. They want truth and facts but instead they get opinions and interpretations that come disguised as truth and facts.

Take the issues surrounding Measure B as an example. I got an email with the subject; “Quick Facts Why NO on Measure B”. I love facts, so I was anxious to dig into the message.

One of the first facts stated, “Southern California Edison has made it clear they will not be awarding AES a long term power contract so AES will not build.”

I asked AES for their take on that fact and got, “Certainly over the next decade, while we are operating our existing units, there will be additional opportunities to get a contract to build a new power plant in Redondo Beach.”

When the fact from the email can be so clearly refuted by a credible source, it isn’t a fact at all. It’s an opinion. You need to ask yourself, why would someone try to give their opinions more credibility by labeling them as facts? The simple answer is, he wants something and he believes it’s worth sacrificing his integrity to get it.

It would be unfair to say self-serving messages like the Facts email don’t contain any facts. They’re just mixed in with opinions and it’s hard to tell them apart. For example, down near the bottom it says Redondo Beach should, ”…find a way to finance the purchase of the site for $200 million.” How could that be a fact?

The text leading up to that suggestion summarizes what the property might be worth. Not only is it a little vague about where the city will get the $200 million, it’s pretty vague about how the city will force the company to accept a purchase price that’s considerably less than the fair market value.

Granted, the value of the property is variable based on its zoning. But one has to wonder whether the city could be legally liable for withholding a zoning change that would be favorable to the owner if its motive is to force AES to sell out to the city at a lower price than it would have sold the property for otherwise.

There’s more to the message but when I add it all up, I see a set of opinions about future power generation in Redondo Beach, some opinions about the potential revenue to AES and the city and some opinions about what should be done with the AES property.

That’s all fine except the message was billed as Facts. There’s no way to sugar coat it. Calling the content of that email a set of facts is simply not factual.

Here are a few facts.

  • Passage of Measure B will set the city on a path that could and should lead to replacement of the power plant with a development the community can use and enjoy.
  • Failure to pass Measure B will put AES in a position where it needs to come up with some other plan for its property.
  • Failure to pass Measure B will retain the current zoning for a power plant and/or a park.

Look at the second and third facts on that list. If you ran AES and on March 4th you were looking at a failed initiative and your plans to develop your property were cancelled, what would you do?

I will admit there are a number of ways to run the various scenarios that result in AES surrendering to the will of the small group of people who oppose Measure B. But before that happens, years and probably decades of fighting will have taken place. Many thousands, probably millions of our tax dollars will have been spent in legal fees.

Here’s a fact you might not see elsewhere. If AES is going to be forced to lose, Redondo Beach is also going to lose. It isn’t a matter of “if”. It’s a matter of how much.

The people who oppose Measure B would probably call my predictions fear tactics. I disagree. I moved to Redondo Beach knowing there was a power plant on harbor Drive. I’ve lived here the past 20 years knowing the plant is there. I’m not afraid of the AES power plant nor am I afraid of it continuing to be here.

I just don’t like it. For the first time in my 20 years living here and the 15 years visiting before that, I can see a clear path toward a waterfront without a power plant. There’s no fear about the plant staying or going, just hope. Hope that the rest of the community will see what a growing number of concerned citizens see, a realistic, comprehensive plan for what can be the most exciting development in Los Angeles county in our lifetime. It all starts with Measure B.

Oh, by the way, everything I’ve written here is my opinion unless it’s labeled otherwise.

An Open Letter to Voters in Redondo Beach District 3

Dear Neighbor,

Unless you’ve ignored all the mail, the doorbells ringing, the TV ads and the phone calls, you know there’s an election March 3rd. I’d like to ask for just a few minutes of your time to tell you who I am and why I believe this election is so important.

Like you, I live in District 3. I’ve lived here for more than 20 years. I served two terms on the Harbor Commission. I was both vice chairman and chairman of that commission. I also write a column about our harbor for Easy Reader. It’s called Harbor Lights.

I support Measure B, the initiative that will rezone the power plant property but I’m writing to you for a different reason. Passing Measure B is only the beginning of the process that will replace the old, ugly power plant with a vibrant community we can all use and enjoy.

We also need a city council that will make the dream of a beautiful, exciting waterfront into reality. If our community is really committed to the process of replacing the power plant, we need to band together behind our shared vision.

Contrary to rumors from some corners, the community will decide what will be built, how much open space will be set aside and most of the details of the final project. See for yourself. There’s a full text version of the initiative on my blog, www.buildingthebestredondo.com.

Measure B isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning. That’s why it’s so important to elect city council members who will help move us toward the goal of a waterfront that serves the needs of this community and makes us even more proud we live here.

We will elect a new city council member to represent our district from a field of five candidates. It isn’t my place to suggest which candidate to choose on your secret ballot. I would simply ask you to consider voting for a candidate who supports Measure B.

You may need to tune out some of the noise to realize that our new council member will have plenty of opportunities to act on our concerns about traffic, revenue and other issues that will arise down the road.

Voting for the candidate who opposes Measure B will guarantee division and obstruction on the city council. We deserve better. We deserve a representative from District 3 who wants to work toward our shared goals, not stand in the way of our dreams.

Once again, I won’t try to tell you how to vote. But I have listed the four candidates who have shown some degree of willingness to move ahead with a comprehensive plan to help our waterfront reach its full potential. It’s up to you to decide.

This election is incredibly important. Vote March 3rd!

Sincerely,

Harry Munns

www.horvathforredondo.com

www.marchese4redondo.com

www.samforredondo.com

www.colemanforredondo.com

 

Measure B

The No on Measure B (the Redondo Beach ballot initiative that will re-zone the AES power plant property) campaign doesn’t seem to be gaining the momentum it would need to succeed. My years of immersion in the issues and interacting with the personalities on both sides of the seaside development debate, lead me to a few theories that might help explain the apparent lack of energy behind opposition to Measure B.

My first theory has to do with Measure A, the 2013 initiative that proposed rezoning the AES property to exclude power generation, among other things. The petition that put Measure A on the ballot got thousands of signatures by asking a simple question. Would you like to get rid of the power plant?

My second theory came to life immediately after the reelection of District 2 councilman, Bill Brand in the same election. I concluded his decisive victory was attributed to a number of factors, chief among them his success in convincing property owners he was their champion in the fight to rid their neighborhood of the big, ugly, old power plant.

According my theories, thousands of residents showed their support for getting rid of the power plant by signing the petition. A majority of the people who cast votes for District 2 city council, in 2013 believed Bill Brand could help remove the power plant from our waterfront.

Those two theories lead to a third theory. The reason we aren’t seeing any ground swell of enthusiasm for opposing Measure B is because the core supporters of Measure A and councilman Brand see a clear path to the goal they all share with many of the rest of us.

Memes like reducing air pollution and removing the power plant for the good of the community have been used to shield the ambitions of a very small group of people. They successfully seduced thousands of citizens into supporting their campaigns but this one seems different.

AES drew the curtain back by offering a realistic, comprehensive plan to give them exactly what they claimed they wanted, removal of the power plant. Now, the same people who brought you Measure A want their fellow citizens to follow them in opposing Measure B.

Only this time, they can’t offer voters the chance to reduce air pollution and rid the waterfront of the power plant because that’s exactly what Measure B offers. In addition, Measure B offers a way to get it done that would benefit everyone.

So what’s left for the opponents of Measure B when AES has taken the pollution and monstrous power plant arguments away from them? Their yard signs say, Big Traffic, Big AES Profit$ and Big City $ lo$$e$.

Nobody likes traffic but if you want to avoid it, you’ll need to move somewhere lots of other people don’t want to live, like the desert. That just isn’t going to happen so traffic will be a reality with or without Harbor Village.

I haven’t seen any realistic projections of the amount of money AES stands to make from the proposed Harbor Village development. It’s probably a lot. I just don’t get the logic behind the argument that if AES, a public corporation, makes money, Redondo Beach loses something. They aren’t stealing the money they make from the city. They’re exercising their right to sell what they own and use it to do what corporations do, make money.

I won’t claim to speak with any authority about the economics but I will make a personal observation. I paid about $6,000 in property taxes per year for my modest house in North Redondo. Based on what I would expect to be much more valuable residences in Harbor Village and the number proposed, there should be a ton of money generated in property taxes. And that’s just one source of revenue. There will be others.

In my humble opinion, any voter in Redondo who doesn’t vote for Measure B is nuts. If the measure fails, you can expect to live with the power plant for a long time to come. If you like the power plant, vote NO on Measure B. If you don’t, you know what to do.

Eight (Years) is Enough!

Redondo Beach voters will have the opportunity to change the city charter when they go to the polls November 4th. The changes that concern me might seem minor, really just two words. But the impact will be anything but minor.

I’m voting NO on Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE. I hope enough of my fellow citizens will consider the real impact of these changes to our city charter and together we can defeat them.

The ballot measures will extend term limits for the Mayor, City Council and School Board from two terms to three terms. What was once a mandatory maximum of eight years in those positions would now be extended to twelve years.

I want to start on a positive note. I’ll get to the negative part soon enough. Members of the City Council who want to continue to serve the city beyond their mandated eight years should be commended. When it’s done correctly, sitting on the council takes a lot of time and effort and provides very little reward.

Power, even the relatively insignificant amount that comes with service on the city council of a small city, is a powerfully addicting intoxicant. Once people taste it, they almost always want as much as they can get.

I don’t believe that’s the only reason members of our City Council want to serve longer but I believe that’s the ugly, underbelly of these two proposed amendments. Candidly, proponents of the amendments might tell you they want to continue the momentum the council has established with harbor re-development plans. I like the sentiment behind that. I’m all for redeveloping the harbor and against getting bogged down in endless quarrels that divert us from those goals.

Past initiatives that changed city policy such as Measures G, DD and A wound up on our ballots because thousands of citizens signed petitions. Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE didn’t follow that path. There was no popular uprising among voters who couldn’t bear the thought of losing council members who were about to term out. The only reason our current City Councilors might get a chance to continue sitting on the council after two terms is because three of five council members voted to put the matter on the ballot.

If the Amendments pass, two term councilmen, mayors and school board members will most likely return for a third term. Incumbents get re-elected. Ninety percent of incumbents in congress who ran for re-election in 2012, won their races. Earlier that year, polls showed only 23% of the public regarded congress favorably. You don’t have to do a good job to get re-elected. All you have to do is run.

Locally, the numbers are probably a little better. If you kept your head down, didn’t rock the boat, returned constituents’ phone calls and you’re not running against someone who’s better known and better liked, you are going to get re-elected.

Our entire government, from the president down to local elected officials, is a representative democracy. Every voter who wants to serve (with a few exceptions) has the opportunity to run for office. A candidate who convinces enough voters his or her vision and qualifications are better than the other candidates’, earns the privilege of serving.

An additional four-year term for our current elected officials will not subvert the democratic process. We will still live in a democracy. Waves will get bigger after a storm and parking will still be impossible near the beach on summer weekends.

But the chance to serve will be denied to many people who might have been able to offer new and valuable talents and experiences to the community. Nothing would keep these people from running but with a ten percent statistical probability of winning an election against an incumbent, few if any will get elected.

There are risks to voting NO on Proposed Charter Amendments CM and BE. New Council and School Board members will need to learn a lot and they may stumble a bit in the beginning. The risk of stagnant, predictable ideas and outcomes is far more frightening to me.

I’ve had serious disagreements with policies and positions some of our elected officials hold and have held in the past. I have always known the questions these people force the community to ask and answer are essential to making proper, informed and beneficial decisions. I believe in the end, the city of Redondo Beach will get most of it right and we won’t have to sacrifice any part of our democratic principles in the process.

The Worst Laid Plans

We generally categorize ideas as either good or bad, beach volleyball – good idea, beach basketball – bad idea. Some ideas can be both good and bad. Bringing your laptop to the beach could be tempting. You could get some work done while you’re enjoying a day of surf, sun and sand. But laptops don’t like salt and sand. Plus, you’d probably struggle to see the screen on a sunny day.

The plan that’s currently underway for a boat ramp in King Harbor is just such an idea, good and bad. It’s good because people like me, who keep our boats on trailers, would have an easier way to get in and out of the harbor.

Any boat that’s too big to carry has two options for launching in King Harbor. The King Harbor Marine boat yard has a hoist called a Travelift that can get a boat in and out of the water. Redondo Beach Marina has a hoist that can take a boat off a trailer, put it in the water and retrieve it when it’s time to put it back on the trailer. Most trailer boaters use the Redondo Beach Marina facilities.

The idea of building a boat ramp in King Harbor is as good as the idea of bringing your laptop to the beach. Unfortunately, salt and sand are minor considerations compared to the problems facing a boat ramp. Lots of questions should have been asked before Redondo Beach embarked on the path it appears to be following toward construction of a boat ramp

The first question that should have been asked is whether or not the trailer boating public needs a boat ramp. Imagine pouring millions of dollars into a boat ramp and finding out no one wants to use it.

Why did the city of Redondo Beach skip this most fundamental step prior to making their decision to proceed with plans for a boat ramp? The city council seems to have interpreted a relentless barrage of repetitive requests for a boat ramp from a single individual as a substitute for facts.

To its credit, the city has commissioned studies about the best location for a boat ramp. In my opinion, the best location for a boat ramp would be the current location of the King Harbor Yacht Club. I like the KHYC and I’m not suggesting the city replace it with a boat ramp but if we were starting with a blank canvas, that’s where I’d put it.

A city couldn’t just start planning an alternate use for the parcel of land KHYC occupies while the club is still there and it shows no signs of wanting to leave. That would be wrong. However, the current plan for a boat ramp will remove Joe’s Crab Shack and eliminate that location as a place for a restaurant in the future. I’m not sure why that isn’t wrong.

There is no good location for a boat ramp in King Harbor. If there was, a ramp would already be there.

One of the biggest issues surrounding the boat ramp is parking. A boat with a trailer needs two spaces. One of the things the city council would have noticed about nearby boat ramps if they had studied them, would have been they have ample parking for anyone who shows up even on holiday weekends in the summer.

That is simply impossible in King Harbor. There has been talk about using the AES property but is that something that can really be incorporated into a plan at this time?  How long will the new King Harbor boat ramp remain successful when the word gets out that after planning their day, packing up the family and provisions, then driving to King Harbor, boaters couldn’t find any place to leave their car and trailer?

Even if there was some place to park cars and trailers like the power plant or the open space under the power lines up the hill on Herondo, having to hike a quarter or half mile back to your boat after launching it would have the same effect as having no parking. It would drive boaters away.

Traffic is always an issue but in looking at the half-baked plans for a boat ramp, it’s hardly the most compelling reason to abandon the plan. Boat traffic is a different story. The harbor is about to get 24 transient moorings. Almost every visiting boat will arrive with a dinghy, which doubles the number of boats at any given time. Stand up paddling continues to grow in popularity. The 1500 boats in slips need to move freely in and out of the harbor. Peddle boats are everywhere in the nice weather. KHYC has a very active youth program, which puts dozens of small boats with kids in the harbor. The list goes on.

In short, there are a lot of boaters vying for the limited space inside the King Harbor breakwater. I welcome them all but safety is a concern especially as the numbers increase. I wish the city had studied boating safety issues surrounding the plan it has undertaken to build a boat ramp and increase traffic density in the harbor. It hasn’t.

There’s also an issue with the seawall. It’s about 3 to 4 feet above the grade of the land where Joe’s Crab Shack and the Portofino Hotel are located. If you cut through it for a boat ramp, you might as well destroy the whole wall. The protection it provided will be gone.

We don’t know how much demand there is for a boat ramp. We don’t know how it will affect vehicle traffic. We don’t know how it will affect boat traffic. We do know that the very expensive seawall that protects the land where the boat ramp will go will become nearly useless in high seas if it’s cut down to grade.

It makes you wonder why the city of Redondo Beach would be spending money to develop plans for a boat ramp before they bothered to ask these critical questions. Every city official I’ve heard speak on the matter says roughly the same thing. The Coastal Commission requires it.

So what happens if no one uses it or so many people use it traffic in the harbor comes to a standstill or boats and paddlers become engaged in mortal combat or a big swell from the south wipes out the land where the ramp sits? What do you suppose the Coastal Commission will say if the city pins the blame for an ill-conceived boat ramp on them?

Does anyone believe the Coastal Commission wouldn’t amend their requirements if evidence was presented to them about impracticality or threats to public safety? That conversation doesn’t seem likely because the city has begun planning the project without examining any of those issues.

I don’t expect anyone to have all the answers. But is it too much to expect that our elected officials, at very least, ask the right questions?