At a raucous election-eve session Monday, the City Council narrowly granted developer Les Guthrie a six-month extension on his conditional use permit to build the controversial 156-room Inn at King Harbor hotel/sports complex.
Guthrie reacted angrily, however, saying he needed a full year to complete preparations for the eight-story project. After the voting--in which Mayor Barbara Doerr vetoed a one-year extension recommended by the city staff--Guthrie said he would consult his attorney about his options, including a lawsuit.
The meeting, spiced by a shouting match between City Councilman Archie Snow and City Clerk John Oliver, was further intensified by the appearance of a representative from United States Water Polo Inc. Attorney Richard Foster stated emphatically that the U. S. Olympic water polo team had no part in a recent political ad--approved for publication by Guthrie--that indicated the team would make the inn its permanent home.
"We regret that our name has been used in what appears to us as a local political issue," said Foster. The full-page ad--in the Feb. 21 Easy Reader weekly newspaper--featured a photo of the U. S. silver medalist Olympic team and the words, "Redondo Beach, this is your HOME TEAM, THE ONE PLACE we wish to train."
Long Beach Practice Pact
Last week, The Times reported that despite the implications of Guthrie's ad, the U. S. Olympic water polo team has no commitment to train at the proposed inn and does not consider the facility its permanent home.
Foster reiterated Monday that the national team already has an agreement to practice in Long Beach. If the Redondo pool is built, he added, U. S. Water Polo might be interested in having its junior team practice there.
Guthrie, meanwhile, expressed regret at having placed the ad--which castigated Doerr, Oliver and two other city officials who have opposed the project. In hindsight, Guthrie said, he should have checked with U. S. Water Polo before placing the ad.
At this point, Guthrie indicated he is uncertain how to proceed. He said he has invested $200,000 in the project--but added that by going ahead now, with an inadequate extension for use of the land, he would be risking far more.
Threat of Initiative
Of prime concern to Guthrie, it appears, is the possibility that new City Council members could reject further conditional use extensions and other necessary approvals for the complex--which has already received general approvals from both the council and the California Coastal Commission. Guthrie also faces the prospect of a proposed ballot initiative--supported by Doerr and Oliver--that would limit new development in the harbor.
By seeking the one-year conditional use extension Monday--rather than in May when his permit is due to expire--Guthrie had apparently hoped to avoid possible future problems at the council level. The request was supported by Councilmen Jerry Goddard, Archie Snow and Ron Cawdrey in addition to City Manager Tim Casey, who termed it "a very reasonable length of time" to expect Guthrie to win further government approvals and find financing for the inn.
Guthrie ran into a roadblock, however, when Councilwoman Marcia Martin, who has supported the inn, said she was uncomfortable taking an election-eve vote for a permit that does not expire until May.
"I've thought about this thing until it has made me crazy," said Martin, who was quickly deluged with further advice.
'Let New Council' Decide
"Let's let the new City Council make the decision," said Doerr.
Countered Goddard: "They are using you (Martin). . . . They're just gloating inside that they've got you on a political balance beam. . . . They're robbing you of your authority and power."
Tempers flared when Oliver told Goddard, "You're hedging your bets before Election Day. . . . It's so obvious it's ridiculous."
Snow began yelling that Oliver's remarks were out of order, to which Oliver replied, "Why don't you zip your lip for five minutes?"
Inn supporters were able to muster a 3-2 vote in favor of the one-year extension, but Doerr vetoed the action with the assistance of Martin and Councilman Ray Amys.
Amys' Vote Criticized
Martin finally compromised, agreeing on a six-month extension. The vote was 5 to 0--with inn supporters expressing fears afterward that Amys cast a positive vote as a parliamentary maneuver so he could bring the matter up for future reconsideration.
Guthrie called Amys' vote, "a clear attempt . . . to further harass and bleed us."
Although the debate centered on the relative merits of the entire project, City Atty. Gordon Phillips had informed the council that the central issue was whether an extension was merited because of governmental delays in processing a state coastal permit for Guthrie's Marina Cove Ltd.
After the meeting, Guthrie said he has reached an agreement with U. S. Water Polo Inc. that would give the national governing body the opportunity to train its teams at the inn for up to 100 hours a year for four years.
Guthrie would not reveal details, saying it was "a confidential agreement between us."
Foster, contacted Tuesday, said the agreement would not commit U. S. Water Polo to use the pool. The organization had at one time expressed an interest in having the 1984 Olympic team train there, but the project was delayed well beyond the Los Angeles Summer Games.
"It's at our option," Foster said. "We are not committed to it and it's not for the national team. It would be anticipated the pool would be used by . . . the women's team, the junior national team and the like."
Foster continued that his "main interest is to clear U. S. Water Polo's name from that advertisement because we don't want . . . our name to be dirtied at all by having the appearance we're trying to control local politics."
Foster characterized the ad "a mistake (on Guthrie's part). In the heat of political battle, he went further than he should have."
At the meeting, most council comments concerning the pool centered on such issues as whether it would further clog traffic in the congested King Harbor area. Martin, for one, suggested that the Olympic-size pool be dropped from the project, since the city is planning to build a large public pool on the closed Aviation High School campus.
Guthrie, who has long made the water polo team's residence a cornerstone of his efforts to win needed city approvals, told Martin he would consider dropping the pool. But the issue became moot when Martin dropped her objections before the vote.