Redondo Beach Harbor Commission appointments stir controversy

City Council clashes with mayor on his re-shuffling of commission members.

REDONDO BEACH — Recent discussions surrounding political appointments in Redondo Beach could serve as a microcosm as to why voters and everyday citizens distrust politicians and are frustrated with the government’s machinations.

Redondo Beach’s City Council members spent nearly 75 minutes arguing back-and-forth over Mayor Bill Brand’s commission appointments. The tug-of-war ended in an impasse several hours after the council’s Sept. 5 meeting was called to order, meaning several commissions will have vacancies until the City Council can come to terms on appointments.

The city’s Harbor Commission is one of the boards left with an open seat as a result of the impasse.

At the heart of the stalemate: Brand claimed his appointments would bring more balance to the city’s most sought-after commissions, such as Budget, Harbor and Planning.

“I’m not going to appoint anybody to Planning or Harbor that opposed Measure C and pushed the CenterCal mall, absolutely not,” Brand told his colleagues. “I’m doing exactly what I said I’d do and create some balance on these commissions.”

One of Brand’s suggested moves was to transfer a commissioner off the Harbor Commission to another advisory board in order to make room for two new nominees – a proposal met with fervent opposition by at least one elected official.

“Why would you remove someone halfway through their term?” Council member Laura Emdee asked in reference to Brand’s proposal to remove Matt Kilroy from Harbor Commission and move him to Historical Commission.

Kilroy’s term continues through September 2020; Commissioner Lenore Bloss’s term expires Sept. 30. Moving Kilroy to the Historical Commission would allow Brand to appoint Bardin and Light to the Harbor Commission.

Redondo Beach’s City Attorney, interestingly enough, told the council a commissioner serves for four years, but he or she could be transferred from one commission to another.

Brand sought to move Kilroy off the Harbor Commission, so he could make room for two other nominees – Ian Bardin and Jim Light. Both nominees are boaters and have deep knowledge of Redondo Beach’s harbor, according to some members of the City Council. Bardin is reportedly a King Harbor liveaboard.

The mayor, however, could not reach a consensus on moving Kilroy to another advisory board to make room for Bardin and Light on the Harbor Commission.

At one point Brand was willing to keep Kilroy on Harbor Commission while Light would be appointed to the board’s sole vacancy and Bardin would continue his appointment on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

However the council was unable to come to terms on other appointments, meaning Bloss’s seat will – at least for now – go unfilled.

Brand’s attempt to reshuffle the Harbor Commission was certainly a source of controversy on the dais.

“You guys are asking me to not reappoint Jim Light so you can put Ian Bardin. I’m making room for both Ian Bardin and Jim Light by removing Matt Kilroy,” Brand told his colleagues. “You’re basically saying, ‘Ian, you can be on the commission to replace Jim Light.’ I’m the mayor; I get to make the appointments. You don’t have to agree with them, we can leave a hole there.”

He then turned to the gallery and appeared to briefly address Bardin personally.

“Ian, I’m trying to make a place for you, but apparently there are some people up here that would rather have Matt Kilroy on the Harbor Commission,” Brand said.

Council member Christian Horvath immediately pushed back on Brand’s comments, saying he did not feel comfortable shuffling people around midway through their appointed terms.

“I take issue … with you removing sitting commissioners from their position. They’re serving; I don’t have an issue with them serving; I don’t know why you would just pull them off and put them on to [other commissions],” Horvath said. “It seems quite vindictive, because you’ve had issues with at least one of those individuals [shuffled].”

Brand consistently held his position throughout the debate, stating his appointments specifically aimed at maintaining balance across all commissions.

“What we’re trying to do is have a balanced view on these commissions,” Brand told his colleagues, adding some previous appointees are part of an old guard or have a financial stake in the issues they deliberate.

“What you haven’t had over the years [is balance],” Brand continued. “And one of the reasons you keep having these lawsuits and these initiatives that are overturning city action – is because you don’t have any balance on the commissions.”

Brand emphatically stated he did not want to continue the City Council’s practice of “going along” with mayoral appointments and unanimously approving whoever was selected, particularly on substantive boards such as Harbor or Planning commission.

Commission appointments generally expire on Sept. 30.

Boat Launch Ramp

The rest of Redondo Beach’s Harbor Commission met a few days after the City Council impasse and discussed the future of King Harbor’s planned boat launch ramp. King Harbor boaters have been without a boat launch ramp for decades, but recent plans to redevelop the waterfront have included various attempts to add the amenity in Redondo Beach.

Commissioners discussed the boat launch ramp at their Sept. 11 meeting, pointing out the city has been trying to figure out how to incorporate the amenity into King Harbor since 1959.

“Every conceivable site and plan has been previously proposed and studied between 1959 and 2016,” city staff stated in a presentation to commissioners. “If the boat launch ramp facility had been built in 1963, interior locations within Basins 1 and 2 would have been the preferred site locations because of their superior shelter and distance from boat traffic lanes and water use patterns. The harbor could then have developed around it.”

Some of the sites Redondo Beach are considering (or has already considered) are one- or two-lane options at Moles A, B, C and D. The city is also considering hand-launching options.

Factors going into each alternative include access, harbor area traffic, parking and wave and surge exposure.

Parimal M. Rohit photo

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