Lively Redondo Council Race Turns on Issue of Development

Times Staff Writer

When voters cast ballots March 5 in three City Council races, they will be determining what city politicos view as a clear-cut, pivotal battle between two well-defined factions: a pro-growth group headed by mayoral candidate Jerry Goddard and a slow-growth (or, some would argue, no-growth) group headed by Mayor Barbara Doerr.

After four years in which the council has approved several major development projects, advocates of slower growth are hoping that the upcoming vote will swing the council balance in their favor.

"It's not just a lackadaisical-type campaign," said city school board member Valerie Dombrowski, who is challenging incumbent Archie Snow for the North Redondo District 4 council seat. "There's a lot at stake."

Three seats are up for grabs on the five-seat council--those of Snow, harbor-area incumbent Ray Amys and two-term South Redondo Councilman Goddard.

On major issues, Goddard, Snow and Councilman Ron Cawdrey have tended to vote as a majority bloc--approving such projects as an eight-story, 156-room hotel complex at King Harbor and supporting development of the entire closed Aviation High School campus for office buildings. (Voters, however, rejected full development at Aviation in a ballot measure last summer.)

Main Supporter

Amys, meanwhile, has been Doerr's main--and often only--supporter.

Taken individually, the council contests feature a combination of highly visible and little-known candidates sporting a variety of views on such issues as the Inn at King Harbor and condominium construction throughout the city.

But overall, the vote could result in a whole new look for the council--either in March or in May. With 11 contenders seeking the three available seats--and candidates needing more than 50% of the vote to win, May 14 runoffs are likely.

Rundowns on the candidates in each of the three races follow.

District 1--After eight years in office, Goddard is required to vacate his South Redondo post. Seeking to fill the breach are 10-year city treasurer Alice De Long and two political newcomers, John Chapman and Kevin Stapleton.

De Long, 50, a staunch supporter of Doerr, is hoping to help forge a new council alliance with the mayor, who must fend off Goddard and airline pilot Gary Smith to win a second term.

"I've disagreed with many of the decisions that have been made (by the current council) and I'd like to have a say," De Long said. "I think with my experience, I can be a real asset to the council."

De Long, along with Doerr, fought strenuously last year in favor of successful ballot measures to halt a major road-widening project along Flagler Lane and to set aside a portion of the Aviation High campus for city-run recreational facilities.

"That's what the people really wanted, and if we represent the people, and we understand what they want . . . there is going to be a change," the 23-year Redondo resident said.

De Long, who also supports a proposed ballot measure to limit new harbor-front development, surprised many when she entered the council race--because if she wins, she must give up her $38,000-a-year, full-time treasurer's post for the $3,600-a-year part-time council post.

De Long said she is not concerned about resigning because she can return to work in the private field of commercial finance.

Her opponents stress their professional experience.

John (Jack) Chapman, 43, has 16 years experience with the Los Angeles County Planning and Building departments--experience he says can help the council in dealing with planning issues. Stapleton, 37, a lawyer with offices in Lawndale, said his professional expertise will help him resolve council disputes--forging a consensus on issues where members have divergent opinions.

Although both deny the claims, Chapman has been painted by Doerr supporters as a candidate of the Goddard faction and Stapleton--along with De Long--has been painted by Goddard partisans as a candidate of the Doerr faction.

"I'm really not with any faction since I'm a newcomer to these people and Redondo politics itself," said Chapman, a 16-year Redondo resident. "I believe I'd be a good bridge between the many factions in Redondo and would bring a new breadth of expertise."

While working for the county, Chapman has specialized in regional planning and redevelopment projects, serving as building zoning coordinator for the county engineer and design consultant at Marina del Rey for the county's design control board.

Chapman, a member of the city's Public Improvement Commission, has also served on interview boards for city Planning Department employees at the request of city Planning Director Harlan Curwick. Curwick, he said, encouraged him to run for council, and Goddard, a neighbor of Chapman, has also encouraged him to become involved in community affairs.

As for development issues, Chapman supports projects that fall within the parameters of the city's general plan. He said he favors the Inn at King Harbor because it conforms to city planning guidelines.

If council members decide the general plan needs to be changed, he added, "I think I'll be the person on the council to be able to give . . . better insight into how their future decisions will effect the city in years to come."

Stapleton, meanwhile, said that he "is the individual who is, for good or bad, not being endorsed directly or indirectly by anybody else running for anything else."

The 31-year city resident said he is certainly not anti-business--he has served as president of the Lawndale Chamber of Commerce--but that he is also not in favor of all new development projects either. In South Redondo, for example, there is no room for any new development projects, he said.

"We're probably as dense now as I'd ever like to see us get," he said.

Stapleton said he would oppose attempts to curtail parking near businesses along Pacific Coast Highway and would support a parking garage in the Riviera Village area if it were aesthetically pleasing.

District 2--Incumbent Ray Amys, seen as outspoken by his supporters and garrulous by his enemies, has spent a major portion of his council tenure haranguing harbor business leaders, city staff members and the council majority.

"Yes, I do get my dander up," he said. "For four years I've had to fight as the lone soldier."

Amys, 63, a strong opponent of further harbor-area development, is facing opposition not only from candidates who differ with him on policy issues--but also from a lifelong city resident with a similar philosophy.

'Ripping Off City'

Rene Burke, 58, agrees with Amys that the city has become overdeveloped, particularly in the vicinity of the harbor front. Burke adds, however, that he would provide better representation to district residents when they need assistance from City Hall.

The other candidates in District 2 are political novice Mark Keppler, 27, and Kay Horrell, 58, a long-time real estate broker who both Amys and Burke charge is the candidate of the city's big business interests.

Amys, a retired manufacturer, said that for four years he has consistently opposed the government's "continually having to subsidize the harbor. We've been subsidizing it for years with (tidelands) oil revenues."

He maintained that harbor businessmen "are ripping off the city" and that they "continually buy off . . . elected officials" with campaign contributions.

Amys also warns against further condominium developments, saying that they are likely to become the "future slums in our city."

If reelected, Amys said, he will push hard for a ballot initiative to restrict building heights in the harbor area.

Burke, who Amys charges has "muddied up the race" by entering, said he knows "the district better than anyone (else) who is a candidate. I know every street, I know the houses."

Fresh leadership is needed, Burke added, because Amys has proved unsuccessful in rallying majority council support, even if he has taken the correct stands on issues.

Burke--whose brother Paul served on the council from 1972 to 1976 and whose brother Henry is a longtime Redondo political activist--said that new development in the harbor area would further compound parking and traffic problems.

A vote for Horrell, added Burke, who manages his family's residential properties, would be a vote for more development.

"If the people want a real estate broker, they ought to guess which way she's going to vote on high-rises," he said. "They don't need a fortuneteller to tell them that."

Horrell, 58, did not return repeated phone calls seeking her position on the issues.

In her campaign literature, Horrell says she opposes "negative thinking (which) is causing many citizens to wonder about their leadership." She also stressed her experience on the city's Library Commission, Planning Commission and Beautification Committee. She has worked hard, she said, to provide view decks for The Esplanade and to designate the New Zealand Christmas Tree as the official tree of Redondo Beach.

Keppler, who distributes Racing Forms and also works part time running the bumper cars and other rides at the Redondo Fun Factory, said he can bring a new generation of leadership to the council.

"I think the city needs some youthful leaders on the council because in the last couple of years they have not been too young," he said.

Keppler said his campaign strategy is to "sit back and let the other three fight it out . . . and try to work with the (city's) youth."

Keppler, whose mother Alyce ran unsuccessfully for council in 1977, said he would "like to see prosperity in the city, but I don't want to see it overbuilt either."

District 4--If there's one thing all four candidates agree on, it's that the campaign focus is on the incumbent.

"I am the issue," says Snow, in his usual unabashed, or, as some have claimed, blustery, style.

Four years ago, longtime council critic Snow, 66, campaigned as the people's candidate, lambasting council members for approving too many development projects. Now, the retired environmental tester is running with the help of more than $11,000 in campaign funds that for the most part came from the city's leading business interests.

Snow has reported contributions of $250 or more from the Redondo Beach Marina, Marina Cove Ltd., the proprietor of the Portofino Inn and the Redondo Fun Factory. In contrast, two of his opponents, Carl Clark and Steve Reiss, have both reported contributions of less than $500 through mid-January.

Snow said he accepted the large-scale contributions because he had been planning to run for mayor. He bowed out of the costlier race when his ally, Goddard, decided to enter it.

Opponent Reiss has said he is running on Snow's platform of four years ago--only he will stick to it if elected. Snow, however, maintains that he hasn't changed as much as such critics have charged.

For 'Good Development'

"I've supported good developments that bring tax revenues to provide services people want," Snow said.

As for first term accomplishments, the incumbent cites street improvements and his role in developing the South Bay Galleria shopping mall and in establishing a municipally run traffic school for driving law offenders. Snow also cited his efforts in organizing a children's fingerprinting program--to aid in a search if they should ever disappear--in which 650 youths were fingerprinted in one afternoon.

During a second term, the incumbent said, he would continue to seek a 125-unit senior housing complex near the developing Galleria.

Snow's best-known opponent is two-term city elementary school board member Dombrowski.

A bitter critic of Snow, Dombrowski says, "He hasn't kept his word from day one--he has switched his votes every which way.

"He campaigned to stop runaway condos . . . he asked do we want Redondo Beach turned into a high-rise resort . . . then he turned his back on them and made things available to big developers."

As for herself, Dombrowski--who said she is between 40 and 50 years of age--worked on the campaigns to save Aviation's recreation facilities and to reject the Flagler Lane road-widening.

The one-time metallurgist, a 27-year Redondo resident, said she stands above the other contenders because "I'm a known commodity and I'm accessible."

Dombrowski said, "The biggest change with the correct majority on the council would be government going back into the hands of the people. Presently it reflects the vested few . . . big business, not little businesses."

Reiss, a first-time candidate who serves as chairman of the city's Public Improvement Commission, questions the need for further harbor-area development.

"Those who would propose to put more hotels down at the harbor, I believe, are doing a disservice to the community. Certainly those living in Redondo Beach aren't going to spend a week's vacation in Redondo Beach, so it's not for the pleasure of the citizens."

Reiss, 30, is a four-year city resident who works as a sales administrator for the Revell toy firm. He said he particularly relates to the young, community-oriented professionals who make up an increasing proportion of North Redondo's population.

Reiss added that Snow's campaign chest does not rattle him. "There's no question he has 10 to 20 times the money I do, but he has a severe public relations problem."

Clark, meanwhile, said he would bring a new level of business and planning expertise to the council.

The 37-year-old manager of materiel systems for TRW said the city must better plan for the future, adding, "I'd like to feel I'm part of a new generation carrying business practices into local city government."

Clark, a seven-year Redondo resident, said that, unlike other District 4 candidates, he stands aside from the factional politics of the city.

Goddard, he said, is "too laissez faire" in his attitudes toward business and Doerr is "too strict" in regard to business growth.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World