Jul 28, 2014

Trading our harbor for a shopping center

Trading our harbor for a shopping center

In his State of the City address, Mr. Aspel made some comments that speak volumes about the state of city government affairs in Redondo.  Space does not permit me to address the breadth of the implications of his statements so for this piece I will focus on the CenterCal waterfront mall. 

It seems Mr. Aspel takes exception to using the term “mall” for this project.  And no wonder, through the years the term  “mall” has earned a negative connotation.  So the industry developed a new term:  “lifestyle center”.   The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) dictionary  states a  lifestyle center  “contains national chain specialty stores with dining and entertainment in an open air setting.”  It seems no one uses the term “mall” anymore.   Plaza El Segundo, Manhattan Village, Del Amo Fashion Center, Rolling Hills Plaza, and Promenade on the Peninsula all label themselves as “lifestyle centers”.  

But therein lays the problem.  These national chain shopping and restaurant centers are all cookie cutter stores and restaurants.  Local flavor is virtually non-existent ; thus they all compete directly with one another. In order to make ends meet, CenterCal is packing in more development than Plaza El Segundo into an area one third the size.  That drives a solid wall of two and three story development separating us from our beloved harbor.  But, are there enough customers to go around? 

For CenterCal’s mall to be successful, they will have to attract over 20,000 car trips per weekday and 30,000 trips on Saturday and Sunday.  And that is without the new boat ramp.  Currently PCH carries 40,000 cars per day through Redondo and our three main PCH intersections are already at or over capacity.  Harbor Drive, Beryl, and Torrance Boulevard, the three main entrances to the harbor area, cannot handle this traffic.  And then there’s the parking.  Due to space limitations, CenterCal proposes two massive three story pay parking lots, one at Beryl and one in the current location to cram in these expected customers.  Will customers subject themselves to traffic jams, cutting across the new bike lanes, and paying to park in parking structures rather than go to Plaza El Segundo, Manhattan Village, the Del Amo Fashion Center, the Galleria, and/or Rolling Hills Plaza with their major artery access and free parking? 

Without that many customers every day, the CenterCal “lifestyle center” runs the very real risk of becoming an overdeveloped, run-down, crime-ridden Ports-of-Call… or closer to home… the failed Pier Plaza.

Aspel praises CenterCal for saving the city $25 million.  I will address this fuzzy math in a subsequent article, but I view it quite differently.  Our City is frantically applying for state grants and redirecting Moonstone Park funds to spruce up our harbor for CenterCal’s mall.  What the city cannot scrape together we will borrow from, get this, CenterCal.    To add insult to injury, the sweetheart agreement the City gifted to CenterCal lets CenterCal use our 15 acres of prime waterfront property rent free for 30 years unless CenterCal makes 10% profit first.  And while our City is scrambling for CenterCal, CenterCal has already missed a key deadline in that agreement. ..the submission of a detailed project description.  Obviously, Mr. Aspel neglected mentioning this in his address.  When you put all the pieces together, CenterCal is not saving the City $25M.  Rather, our Council is giving CenterCal our waterfront and selling out our quaint harbor for a risky shopping center. 

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