REDONDO BEACH PLANNING COMMISSION UPDATE

Redondo Beach denies Legado Redondo’s mixed-use proposal for former Bristol Farms site

Artist’s rendering of the revised Legado project proposed for the former Bristol Farms site in Redondo Beach. Planning commissioners voted agains the proposal. (Credit: Legado Redondo)

Redondo Beach planning commissioners have rejected a contentious plan to build mixed-use development at the former Bristol Farms site at Palos Verdes Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway after months of outcry from residents who have rallied against the project’s size and density.

Developer Legado Redondo was given three months in August to bring back a downsized version of its plans for a contemporary 149-unit apartment complex, about 37,000 square feet of retail space, a subterranean parking garage and renovations to the 110-room Palos Verdes Inn on the 4-acre site.

But city staff said Thursday that Legado’s latest version — a 146-unit, Mediterranean style development with 52 percent less retail space and smaller buildings — could not be thoroughly reviewed because it was submitted past deadline and incomplete.

Without a full review by city staff, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to deny the previously submitted 149-unit version.

Legado CEO Edward Czuker said Friday he is “very disappointed” in the decision and is considering his next move.

“This is all fresh, it only happened last night,” Czuker said. “We need to evaluate what our options are.”

An appeal to the City Council must be filed by 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30.

Czuker also said Legado has not ruled out pursuing a larger, 180-unit project that drew backlash earlier this year from residents concerned it was too bulky, would worsen traffic at the congested intersection and would not fit in with the neighborhood.

The City Council decided against enacting an emergency 45-day moratorium on mixed-use development last month. Plans to amend the city’s mixed-use zoning standards will go before the council Feb. 16.

In a letter sent to the Planning Commission two weeks ago, Legado attorney Fernando Villa hinted at possible legal action, saying the city “appears to be staving off further action on Legado’s project while it prepares measures to stop the project.”

Community Development Director Aaron Jones said Thursday that he received plans for Legado’s latest revision on Nov. 5, giving staff “only four working days to look at a plan that we had never seen.”

“Four days is not sufficient time to do that work,” Jones said. “Literally, we could spend four days with the plans.”

Villa said Thursday that the development team believed it had more time to submit them.

Before giving a PowerPoint presentation of the paired-down plans to the Planning Commission, Czuker said that at every turn Legado “worked very hard to comply with the city’s directives and to respond to community input.”

He noted that the reduction of retail space to 17,764 square feet is less than what is on site today and said structure heights were reduced to 33 feet by dividing the project into five buildings.

Villa said Legado held more than 50 meetings with 100 residents since August before the revised version was drafted.

If planning commissioners would not vote on the scaled-down plans, Legado executives asked that they approve the 149-unit revision.

Planning Commissioner Wayne Ung said he did not want to rush a decision without staff reviewing the new plans.

He alluded to the difficult legal position the city of Rancho Palos Verdes finds itself in due to planning oversights in the construction of a controversial mausoleum at Green Hills Memorial Park.

“To go out on a limb without our subject matter experts weighing in on the hard work that you’ve proposed, I think would be doing everyone a disservice,” Ung said, expressing willingness to give the project more time. “Let’s do it right.”

But project opponents in attendance urged commissioners to deny the 149-unit project they were poised to reject in July.

“I think affordable housing is a laudable goal but I don’t see that as Legado’s mission,” resident Mary Trainer said. “While I appreciate the effort made on the developer’s part, there’s still significantly more work to be done to reduce the residential density and overall massiveness of this project.”

Jane Abrams said that while Legado’s latest round of outreach is “a step in the right direction,” the redesign does not address the crux of opposition to the project: its residential density.

“The project is still too big, it’s still too bulky,” Abrams said. “The change from 149 to 146 is only a drop in three units and we do want to see lower residential density at this site.”

Unlike previous hearings, several audience members voiced support for Legado on Thursday, arguing the project would expand affordable housing opportunities in the city.

Legado’s 180-unit plan called for a density bonus, offering nine “very low-income” units.

Griselda Morales said she has worked in Redondo Beach for the past eight years and her son attends elementary school in the city, but that she can’t afford to live there.

“I feel like this project will provide more housing opportunities for people like myself to be able to live in Redondo,” she said.

Chris Grey said he believes mixed-use development is positive and will provide much-needed housing options.

“To me it’s not ‘why?’ but it’s ‘why not?’ ” Grey said.

Several speakers questioned just how affordable the apartments would be.

Czuker said Friday that it’s premature to throw out any figures.

He said while he believes there is a “groundswell of support” for the project, Legado did ask supporters to speak before the commission for the first time Thursday.

“In the past, since the project had staff recommendation for approval, we did not ask public to come out,” Czuker said.

In response to suggestions from critics that those speakers were on Legado’s payroll, Czuker said almost all were community members, except for a few associated with property management and the Palos Verdes Inn.

One speaker was Cathy Caplener, a public relations representative for Legado, though she did not identify herself as such when she spoke.

“I wanted to speak as a Redondo Beach resident,” Caplener said.

Commissioner David Goodman said because Legado has been “very specific” about not wanting more time to work with the city on the new plans and insisted on approval that night, he was left with no alternative but to oppose the project for now.

“Although 146 seemed to have some support, Legado is apparently not interested in pursuing that,” he said.