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Redondo Beach News

Referendum movement faces deadline, part 2

The groundswell

In March, Chris Cagle somewhat sheepishly stood before the city council and told them he had formed a group called the Citizens for a Vote on the Heart of the City. He said that the group intended to seek a referendum if the council proceeded to pass resolutions and ordinances that enacted the Heart of the City specific plan. He said it wasn’t about being for or against the plan, but about the need for a vote. “I just think something this big, that will affect everybody, ought to be put up for a vote,” he said.

It didn’t sound so much like a threat as sort of a vague idea. After three years of discussion, most of the plan’s opponents had already made themselves known, or so it seemed. Council members expressed doubt that it would be possible to address the plan with a referendum, given the number of resolutions that had been connected to it. It was suggested that Cagle inform himself better, and Councilman Parsons offered to meet with him.

Cagle didn’t meet with Parsons, but he did meet with a lawyer, who helped him pick out two resolutions that would be the most effective targets. And while the Citizens for a Vote on the Heart of the City have hit the streets with a vehemence that has surprised everybody, even Cagle, the campaign has taken on an edge that is about more than voting. Their campaign flyers, advertisements, and sidewalk pitches do indeed call for a vote, but the picture being painted of the plan clearly implies not only a vote but also a vote against this plan.

The group has made T-shirts emblazoned with an image that pretty much sums up the vision they are fighting against: rows of cartoon condominiums stamped across a heart.

“They are looking for something to lash out at,” said Hill. “The fundamental thing that people do not understand is that this is a plan. This is not a development. What they are doing would roll us back to the original general plan, and I’m not sure they understand what the unintended consequences of that might be.”

Hill said that people have become obsessed with the idea of density, and that the fear of increased traffic has generated a stampede mentality. He argued that the traffic impacts created by what he said were the 7,000 new jobs coming to El Segundo would be far greater. He also noted that even if the plan were built to its maximum density, Redondo Beach would still be far less dense than Hermosa Beach. According to the office of the city manager, Hermosa currently has a density of 7,569 units per square mile. Redondo has 4,765 units per square mile, which would increase to 5,248 if the maximum build-out occurred under the plan.

Hermosa Beach city council member Michael Keegan provided the petitioners with bagels and snacks while they worked Saturday, and Hermosa has announced its intention to sue Redondo over the proposed density and traffic impacts of the plan.

Hill did acknowledge that he saw something positive in the movement. “It’s good to see people involved,” he said. “Although I do wonder why they didn’t give their input earlier in the process.”

Paul Schlichting, who has helped organize the group, said that he’s never seen anything like it in Redondo before. “This is the biggest groundswell I have ever seen,” he said.

Part of that groundswell was David Brady, who took a long Saturday afternoon walk just to sign the petitions. Brady, a senior citizen wearing a floppy hat and comfortable shoes on a day he said his wife took off with the car, said he was undecided on the pros and cons of the plan.

“I think it would be well to have everybody have a chance to vote on this little matter,” Brady said. “I’m not so sure which way I think it should go. I’ve read the editorials and the articles that say it might be worse if this plan does not go through, because at least here there will be some control. And the way things stand there’s no zoning control in that region. So, I am not positive yet how I am going to vote. I have to be persuaded yet. But I sure want to be allowed to vote.”