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Sunday, April 21, 2002

Local News

Citizens rise up against Heart of City plan

Fresh news, sports and business on The Wire

By Eddie North-Hager


What Redondo Beach city councilmen long called a smattering of naysayers has turned into a chorus of outraged residents wanting to revise or kill the Heart of the City plan and its proposed density.

About 50 members of Citizens for a Vote on the Heart of the City gathered at City Hall on Thursday to turn in petitions with 6,377 signatures calling for a public vote of the plan to revitalize the harbor area and create a residential corridor along Catalina Avenue.

“This will show our City Council that it's not one or two or 10 or hundreds,” said Gemma Scharfenberger, a substitute teacher who gathered 137 signatures. “There are thousands who do not like the plan. We are the voice of the people.”

The signatures will be sent to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office for verification and must be before the City Council within 30 working days starting Monday.

More than 4,041 registered voters' signatures are needed to force a referendum. If enough signatures qualify, the City Council must either vote to repeal the Heart of the City plan or put it up for a vote in not less than 88 days.

Mayor Greg Hill, who spent Saturday speaking with residents gathering signatures at a grocery story, said he believes a compromise is possible regarding the density — up to 55 units per acre — and the number of residential units — up to 2,998.

“We can rescind the ordinance and go back to the discussion,” said Hill from a conference in Washington, D.C. “Perhaps we could go lower. It might have been a good idea to do that. We just wanted to keep it as flexible as possible. Personally, I have no problem with a (lower) range that overall wouldn't exceed a certain number. It probably should have been in there. But I was informed it was not necessary.”

Chris Cagle, who organized the effort, managed to recruit 145 volunteers to hawk petitions at local grocery stores. In two weeks, the residents came back with as few as one and as many as 188 signatures per petition packet.

“There was so much energy because people were frustrated with the process,” Cagle said. “With this people felt like they could make a difference.”

Cagle said lowering the density of the project would make most people happy.

“We've never wanted to shut down the whole thing,” Cagle said. “We are just unsatisfied with what's on the table.”

But others want nothing less than a vote.

Ed Pitzer of north Redondo Beach said the people should always vote on such big projects.

SK,3 “I'd like to see a lot less development,” Pitzer said. “Two thousand is too many and 1,500 is too many. But all the people here are not of a single mind. There's lots of room for different ideas. That's why we need a vote.” SK,0

Many of those involved in the petition gathering hadn't made their voices known during the nearly three years of Heart of the City planning.

“I watched closely for the first 1 ½ years,” said Gregory Meichtry, who lives in south Redondo Beach. “There was a balanced amount of parks, residential and commercial areas. Then I stopped watching. And what came up at the end was a completely different plan.”

Publish Date:Friday April

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