Tag Archives: Redondo Beach


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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?

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.

Free Federal Money for Redondo Beach?

In 2013 the federal government offered up to $6 million to states and localities for projects that supported transient boaters. Sixteen awards, the highest of which was nearly a million and a half bucks, went mostly to local and private entities. The free money funded projects such as transient docks, fuel docks and a boat ramp.

Unless I missed something, Redondo Beach didn’t apply for any of this money. We have a mooring project in the works, but that’s only the beginning of an overall program to attract transient boaters. We will have to figure out how to get them here and what to do when they arrive,

Transient boaters will need things like a dinghy dock, bathrooms, showers and water taxi service. The transient boater program, such as it is, will almost certainly fail to reach its full  potential without a fully thought-out and executed plan. If there is one, I haven’t seen it.

The city council never asked my advice when I was on the Harbor Commission so I don’t expect them to begin now. I seriously doubt any council members or city staff read this blog, so if anyone who does read it knows anyone on the council, you might point out that 2014 should bring another opportunity for Redondo Beach to apply for free money.

I’ll do my part by sharing this link http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/BIG/BIG.htm  Now all we need is for someone to alert the city to the opportunity.

The Regressive Agenda

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call the people in Redondo Beach who speak out against any and all development, extremists. They hold extreme views, opinions outside the mainstream. They are also willing to back those extreme views up with actions intended to disrupt the things they oppose and draw attention to their agenda.

In fairness, I’m not aware of any illegal activities conducted by our local extremists aside from destroying an occasional political yard sign. So they don’t really compare to some of their counterparts who cause physical harm and property damage but they’re always looking for opportunities to put a stick in the spokes of progress, metaphorically speaking of course.

They’ve taken aim at the CenterCal project in the harbor. One of the regressives hopes he sees an opportunity to sabotage harbor development by writing to an organization that has funded CenterCal projects in the past. The tactic seems to be to supply this organization with a distorted picture of Redondo Beach and hope they decide not to fund the CenterCal project.

It would appear they hope an inaccurate letter or two will cause enough doubt to scuttle the whole harbor revitalization project. I doubt that will be the case but I decided to write my own letter just to make sure any future discussion had a little balance. Here’s my first letter.

“My name is Harry Munns. I served on the Redondo Beach Harbor Commission for eight years and served as its chairman for one year. I have also written a local newspaper column about our harbor/pier complex for six years. I recently discovered (your organization) had been contacted by some or our fellow citizens about the revitalization project Redondo Beach and CenterCal Properties have been working on for the past year.

“I won’t take up much of your time painting a picture of the struggle between the small group of citizens who insist on obstructing and interfering with any form of local improvement or development and the forward-thinking majority of the city’s population, represented by our city council. I’m sure you will figure out who’s who and what’s what without much effort.

“I’d like to inject a few facts into the discussion. The last local election cycle offered voters five opportunities to cast votes in support of the no-progress agenda. The citizens chose the alternatives to that agenda in four of five elections. Any claim that any group other than our city council represents the will of the people is simply not borne out by the election results.

“You should also consider the fact there has been some form of seaside recreation available to the public in Redondo Beach for more than a century. By nearly anyone’s appraisal, our waterfront is tired and outdated. Yet, people still visit by the thousands. Come take a walk on a Saturday or Sunday in the nice weather. You will see people young and old, couples, families and everything in between enjoying a little time off in our delightful seaside community.

“Those crowds are likely to double or triple when the amenities and attractions are improved. That’s what excites me and most of the city’s residents about what CenterCal plans to do here.

“In short, the CenterCal project is coming to a place where most of the local people will welcome it with open arms. Additionally, the Redondo waterfront has a 100 year track record attracting visitors. The modernized, revitalized waterfront CenterCal proposes is guaranteed an instant flood of visitors, eager to experience the next generation of seaside relaxation and recreation.

“I spent more than 20 years as an association executive. I’m guessing I grappled with many of the issues that challenge you day in and day out. One thing I learned is that while all constituents deserve to have their voices heard, you can never please everyone.

“CenterCal has gone to great lengths to listen to everyone’s comments and include their suggestions in the early planning stages of this exciting project. We can’t avoid the inevitable pockets of dissatisfaction but in the end, our city’s leadership and most of its citizens want the CenterCal project.

“It’s probably worthwhile for your organization to take a close look at Redondo Beach, its people and its politics. I believe you’ll find much more support than opposition and much more good than bad. I’d be happy to show you around if you decide to come for a visit.”

 

The $100,000,000 decision

One of my major complaints about Redondo Beach city politics is that city staff has way too much influence on everything from the strategic plan to the award of contracts.

Opponents of this opinion would say that’s the way city government was designed. Our elected officials are volunteers who generally have full-time jobs. In some cases, they have young families that require quite a bit of their attention. Council members rely upon professional staff to take the time to delve deeper into issues than they are able to do themselves. The city pays the staff to provide guidance on some issues, especially the ones they don’t have time to thoroughly research.

I’m sure this is very helpful in some, maybe most instances. Anyone who’s read a city council agenda has seen each item has some indication of what the staff recommends. Some recommendations are  written on the agenda. Other items have a staff report attached within which the staff recommendation is clearly displayed.

Staff reports usually weigh the pros and cons of an issue in a way that appears unbiased and fair. Recommendations are usually explained briefly after the major issues have been weighed and discussed.

We can’t know how much each council member relies upon staff recommendations. I suspect they would deny any claim that the staff exerts undue influence on their decisions. I beg to differ.

More often than not, the information provided by the staff makes up 100% or nearly 100% of the information that’s entered into the public record on a particular issue, other than council discussion. In addition, council decisions follow staff recommendations something like 96% of the time.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything inappropriate about that. Maybe the staff gets it right 96% of the time. Just don’t try to tell me the staff doesn’t wield major influence over the direction our elected officials lead this city. I have evidence to the contrary.

I do think there are times when staff recommendations are not appropriate and may call into question the reasons why staff attempts to move the council toward or away from a particular decision.

Case in point, the staff recommendation on the award of a contract for development of the 15 acres that’s available in the center of the pier/marina complex. The staff has issued a recommendation the way they always do. I have no opinion one way or the other about who gets the contract. In fact, I trust the council will make the decision that’s best for the city. But if there was ever a time when the council should exert some leadership over the staff, it’s now.

Unlike something like waste disposal or pollution standards, there’s no reason to believe city staff would have more access to relevant information than members of the council. There’s also no reason to believe the council won’t invest all the time and effort necessary to make the best decision.

The major risk I see with following the status quo of staff leadership on this issue is the possibility that a losing bidder some other commercial interest or the public would question the basis for the staff’s recommendation. There’s potentially $100,000,000 at stake. That’s more than enough to make people ask questions.

One question that could get asked is whether anyone on the city staff, their relatives or associates has any prior relationship with the bidding companies or anyone connected to those companies. They might also want to know exactly what contact each staff member has had with the bidders and their representatives. It would also be fair to ask whether there are any financial relationships, even something as seemingly insubstantial as a pension invested in one of the companies, its parent company or some subsidiary. If I lost a $100 million bid I’d certainly be asking these questions and more.

Of course, council members should be held to the same scrutiny. But staff recommendations are a single source with a verifiably powerful influence on council decisions. I’d like to see the council tell city staff, “We’ve got this one.” and instruct the staff not to provide recommendations. That would bolster the confidence among everyone involved that the contract award is a council decision based on what’s right for the city.