This renegade California developer wants to build a megaproject in a NIMBY stronghold

By Christian Britschgi | Reason

Shortly after news broke that Los Angeles developer Leo Pustilnikov was intent on acquiring and converting an aging power plant in the beachside community of Redondo Beach, California, into new shops and apartments, a business acquaintance offered him a strange form of congratulations.

“You must be smarter than me,” the acquaintance told Pustilnikov at a New Year’s event in the city’s harbor, he recounts to Reason.

“Why?” asked Pustilnikov.

“Because Redondo only f***ed me for $1 million,” the friend responded. His point was not that the city was an easy place to build things.

Redondo Beach has developed a reputation as a growth-skeptical—its critics would say “not in my backyard” (NIMBY)—stronghold in Los Angeles and the state generally.

It’s a place where local activists have called for erecting a “firewall” against unwanted development, and the typical home goes for $1.5 million. Despite occupying 1.5 miles of prime coastline along Santa Monica Bay, only 1,000 new homes have been permitted there within the past decade, according to federal permitting data.

A focal point for this growth opposition has been the gas-powered, smoke-belching AES power plant that’s long been slated for closure. Its World War II–era technology sits idle most of the time. Environmentalists have taken issue with its use of ocean water to cool equipment, which damages marine life.

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