On Tuesday, developer CenterCal will present to the Redondo Beach City Council the final — for now — design of a revitalized waterfront.
The council will hear from the developer about the project’s big improvements, including a boutique hotel set in front of an expanded beachfront within the existing horseshoe-shaped pier, restaurants, a marketplace hall for selling fresh fish and other culinary fare, an opening up of the Seaside Lagoon, a high-end movie theater, public art and open space.
The council will also no doubt hear from residents of the large condominium projects overlooking the pier and harbor. After a short honeymoon during which residents had nice things to say about CenterCal’s responsiveness to their concerns about the potential for blocked views and increased traffic, media reports and letters to the editor have been full of complaints that CenterCal has stopped listening to the people who will be most impacted by the development.
But there is a difference between listening and granting every wish. We believe the City Council should protect as many views as possible, but the council should also be mindful that many of the views from those condos look out on aging buildings and mostly vacant parking lots.
The condo residents say they aren’t unilaterally opposed to redevelopment of the waterfront. In fact, the group they have formed to speak as one is called Residents for Appropriate Development, or RAD. Increasingly, though, it seems “appropriate” for RAD means a waterfront that doesn’t change much. They don’t appear to want the dramatic overhaul of the pier and harbor that is necessary to make it attractive to locals and out-of-towners.
They don’t want anyone’s views negatively impacted and they especially don’t want the roadway that has been proposed to connect Harbor Drive to Torrance Boulevard, stitching the waterfront together into one cohesive location. Currently, the area is bookended by two unconnected parking structures.
We understand that views and traffic are important factors for homeowners, and CenterCal’s design should mitigate as much as possible any negative impacts. But it is ironic to hear these residents talk about protecting view corridors when the massive condo developments they live in obliterated one of the greatest public views on the California coast.
It’s hard to believe that, whatever design the council decides on, it could do more damage to the area than the condo developments did decades ago.
As for the roadway, CenterCal officials have said they will investigate other options for moving people from one end of the waterfront to the other, including trolleys and electric vehicles. If cars are allowed on the road, gates could be installed to stop late night and early morning traffic and speed bumps could be used to discourage pass-through traffic.
In addition, RAD members have expressed concerns about the financial viability of the project, which will require as much as $300 million in private and public investment.
Indeed, the waterfront revitalization is ambitious, but there is a critical mass of new features that need to be added in order to make upgrades worth taking on.
On Tuesday, the City Council should strike a delicate balance between protecting quality of life and creating a waterfront with some life to it.