Organizers of Redondo Beach United for a NO Vote on Measure A say the initiative puts the city at risk for a long legal battle and offers no guarantee that the existing power plant, which the city has labeled as blight, would be removed.
Lisa Rodriguez, one of the leaders of the new political action committee, said the group seeks a "middle ground" that would leave room for compromise and flexibility in determining the future of the power plant site. The group has established a website promoting its position at www.revitalizeredondo.org.
"I don't think tying our hands is the right way to go," Rodriguez said. "Ours is a compromise position, not just a this or that (choice). The middle ground has not been explored, and I am not alone in thinking that."
Measure A would ban power generation on the 50-acre site in the harbor area, calling for 30 percent commercial or institutional zoning and 70 percent public parkland and open space. The initiative includes an incentive for hotel, office and institutional uses than could result in up to 40 percent commercial/institutional zoning and 60 percent public parkland under certain conditions.
AES has applied to the California Energy Commission for a new plant on the site because the existing facility is cooled by ocean water, a method that is being phased out by new regulations.
AES has said the new power plant would occupy 12 acres, leaving the remaining 38 acres of property on the site dedicated to open space or residential and commercial development.
Rodriguez said her group is concerned the large amount of open space mandated by Measure A would be costly to maintain, bring traffic to the area and make the site unattractive to developers.
The result, she said, could be that AES doesn't tear down the existing plant and the property remains blighted because the Measure A zoning is too restrictive for economic viability. She also maintains Measure A would be susceptible to a legal challenge.
"AES can just sit on the land," Rodriguez said. "You have to have a willing seller and a willing buyer."
Jim Light, one of Measure A's authors, disputed the idea that the initiative could leave the hulking plant in place.
Light said land-use laws allow a city to specify a date that a nonconforming use must be removed. Before then, the land owner must be able to make a reasonable return on the property.
Measure A allows the plant to operate until the end of 2020 for three reasons, he said.
"First, it allows AES to complete their current contract. Second, it coincides with the date the State Water Resources Control Board gave AES to comply with severe ocean water cooling reductions. Third, it gives AES at least two years for demolition and remediation."
While AES did not bring legal action to stop the city from putting Measure A on the ballot, company officials have in the past said that a cooperative approach to the project will be less costly to the city and promote the removal of the old plant more quickly.
Rodriguez agrees, although she is quick to point out that neither she nor any of the members of Redondo Beach United are representing AES or being paid to support a new plant.
"I don't care whether AES is there or not," she said, "but I am in favor of due process and making sure we enter this with care and caution."
Rodriguez said Measure A is symptomatic of a climate that discourages private investment.
"If we make it difficult to bring in businesses, we won't be able to sustain ourselves," she said.
Rodriguez said she has worked as a consultant for the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce and is in the current class of Leadership Redondo. She is a 20-year Redondo resident and her husband, Doug, is treasurer of Redondo Beach United. Their two children attend Parras Middle School and Redondo Union High School.
Opponents of the new plant have cited both campuses as areas where student health could be negatively impacted by the particulate pollution generated by the new facility. While AES has said the new plant will create energy in a "cleaner" way than the existing one, opponents point to AES' application, which calls for the plant to run more often, creating more pollution.
Rodriguez said she was as concerned as any parent about air quality but that wood-burning fireplaces and automotive exhaust pose more threats.
Rodriguez said Measure A supporters have been intolerant of other viewpoints.
Dawn Esser, leader of NoPowerPlant.com, the group that gathered the signatures for Measure A, said her members have also been subjected to personal attacks, being called "zealots" and "a small special interest group." She emphasized the measure was the result of many public meetings.
"NoPowerPlant and Building a Better Redondo have held open public discussions and asked for and incorporated feedback into the Measure A initiative from residents, business owners, council members and boat owners," she said. "Anyone who attended the meetings was allowed and encouraged to give their feedback."
Esser said there is no middle ground when it comes to allowing a new power plant.
"Compromising with AES means a new power plant," she said. "(The company's) submitted plan to the state and city does not have an alternative without a new power plant. Their application doesn't even address this possibility."
Rodriguez said she hopes voters respond to her group's call for a cooperative process in dealing with the site.
"Nothing in life works by just saying `my way or the highway,"' she said.
Find out more
For more information on opposition to the AES plant, go to www.NoPowerPlant.com.
For more information on AES' application and the California Energy Commission's review of the project, visit www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/redondo_beach
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