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Voters consider ballot measures in Redondo Beach and Carson

March 5, 2013 |  4:51 pm


While the contests at Los Angeles City Hall drew much of the spotlight in Tuesday’s election, 29 other cities throughout Los Angeles County held municipal votes of their own.

Voters in Redondo Beach and Carson will decide controversial ballot measures -- one aimed at shutting down a power plant and the other at ousting Carson's longtime mayor.

Redondo Beach residents will vote on Measure A, which would rezone the 50-acre site of the gas-fired AES Redondo Beach plant and would require it to shut down by the end of 2020.

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Plant owner AES had been planning to construct a new plant on the site to comply with new state regulations on the use of ocean water for cooling.

If Measure A passes, the California Energy Commission could still choose to permit a new plant, but proponents of the measure say the commission is unlikely to overrule local zoning decisions.

The measure would require that 60% to 70% of the land be converted to parks or open space and would allow commercial development on the rest of it.

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Proponents of the measure say the new plant would pollute more, because despite being more efficient, it would run more often, and that other uses of the land -- like an upscale hotel -- would bring in more revenue to the city.

"We don't want a new power plant on our water front for another 50 years," said Councilman Bill Brand, a co-author of the measure and the only sitting council member who supports it. Brand said AES pays about $400,000 in taxes a year to the city, but that new commercial developments could bring in 10 times as much.

AES has fought the measure vigorously, spending more than $300,000 since the beginning of the year to oppose it. 

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"We think it's bad for Redondo Beach," said AES Southland President Eric Pendergraft. "It tramples on private property rights. It was done through a citizen initiative rather than through the city government working with the property owner."

Pendergraft said the 500 megawatts of power the new plant will provide -- enough to light half-a-million households -- will be important to support the development of renewable energy sources and potentially to help replace the power from the shuttered San Onofre nuclear plant if those units remains out of service in the long term.

Both sides said they were cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the election.

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In Carson, a ballot measure would switch the mayor's seat from a directly elected post to one appointed by the council on a rotating basis.

The initiative appears to be a bid to oust Mayor Jim Dear, who has been on the council for 12 years and mayor since 2004. He is also facing a challenge in the election from Councilwoman Lula Davis-Holmes.

Dear touts accomplishments including bringing new restaurants and shopping centers to Carson and authoring the city's code of ethics and lobbyist registration ordinance.

But he drew fire  from residents and a rebuke from the Los Angeles County district attorney in recent years over his use of a mute button to silence unruly public speakers -- or, some said, to cut off his critics. He survived a recall election in 2008 launched by residents who said he was too cozy with developers.

Proponents of Measure M -- including Davis-Holmes and two of the three other council members -- argued that making the mayor's seat a rotating position would "level the playing field" and ensure that no single politician holds undue influence over decisions.

"There is only one way to clean up politics in Carson, and that's to cut off the head of the snake, and that's Jim Dear," said resident Barbara Post, 76, a proponent of the measure.

Opponents, including Dear and Councilman Elito Santarina, responded that the measure would take the city back to the days when "the politicians made back room deals to choose Carson's mayor."

"Do you think letting politicians choose our Mayor is a fair system?" they wrote.

Dear and Davis-Holmes did not respond to messages seeking comment.


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-- Abby Sewell