At its periodic review of the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP), the California Coastal Commission said that Los Angeles County is not effectively implementing its certified Local Coastal Program (LCP) for Marina del Rey in conformance with the Coastal Act policies, and it made several unanimous findings and recommendations that would strengthen the LCP and address issues that local residents have fought to bring about for a number of years.

The review took place during a hearing Wednesday, January 9th, at the Marina del Rey Hotel in Marina del Rey to accommodate the large audience of approximately 300.

One commissioner said that it was quite moving that the local residents have a “heartfelt sense of place” and that the actions of the committee would reinforce what “we have heard from them.”

The commissioners’ unanimous findings included the removal of “view disturbances” from the valid language of the Local Coastal Program, to include the fact that mountain views “are valid” and just as crucial as the water views in cases where new development would block views.

A second finding was that the commissioners found several sites to be environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA), and suggested that the county update the LCP to include this finding, removing language that references “Sensitive Biological Resources” and replacing it with “Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas.”

Commissioner Sara Wan said she wanted to get rid of language that refers to the “success of translocation of herons at Gull Park in Long Beach.”

Wan asserted that that program was a “tragic failure” and the findings of success “were not true,” and that officially keeping this language is incorrect.

Commissioners unanimously recommended:

ß declaring a great blue heron habitat as an environmentally sensitive habitat area;

ß that there be no reductions in the total number of boat slips in the Marina and no reduction of slips 35 feet and under; and

ß that a comprehensive study of all proposed future development that would request amendments to the LCP or fulfill the county’s Asset Management Strategy be addressed by a community planning process.

On Tuesday, January 8th, coastal commission staff issued an addendum of modifications, recommending that the county take the corrective actions set forth in the coastal commission report dated December 24th.

Modifications by the coastal commission staff are in parenthesis in the descriptions below.

Regarding water quality, Best Management Practices (BMPs) are incorporated to address water quality, and the modification states, “All new development and redevelopment projects shall integrate Low Impact Development principles designed to capture, treat and infiltrate runoff.”

Regarding initial site inventory indicating the presence or potential for wetland species or indicators, a preponderance of hydric soils, a preponderance of “hydrophotic vegetation, or evidence of wetland hydrology” will be considered presumptive evidence of wetland conditions.

The Land Use Plan landscaping requirements “should be modified to ensure that vegetation removal, vegetation thinning, or planting of non-native or invasive vegetation is not permitted in any area designated as wetlands or sensitive biological resources.”

Coastal commission staff stated that “with regards to affordable housing, the LCP, as currently certified, is inconsistent with the Coastal Act.”

“The Land Use Plan policy that addresses affordable housing should be modified to include language that encourages the protection of existing and provision of new affordable housing within the coastal zone of Marina del Rey.”

The Coastal Act states, “The legislature finds and declares that it is important for the commission to encourage the protection of existing and the provision of new affordable housing opportunities for persons of low and moderate income in the coastal zone,” according to coastal staff recommendations.

The staff modification stated, “While the Coastal Act encourages the protection of existing, and the provision of new low and moderate income housing in the coastal zone, the LCP requires the provision of affordable housing if feasible.

“The county, consistent with the Coastal Act, should encourage the protection and the provision of affordable housing within the Coastal Zone of Marina del Rey.”

Over 80 speakers requested to be heard, with some representing environmental groups.

Other attendees from local groups have attended meetings over the years, such as the Small Craft Harbor Commission and the Marina del Rey Design Control Board to voice protests against what they see as overdevelopment by the county at the cost of recreational boating, massive traffic congestion and the loss of open space and environmental destruction.

David DeLange, executive director of the Coalition to Save the Marina, submitted proposed amendments in collaboration with other individuals to the coastal staff recommendations and presented his information at the hearing.

“We communicated effectively on an emotional level [with commission members] and presented a strong sense of place and home, and the thoroughness of joint community research was very powerful in enabling our victory,” said DeLange. “One could say that this was the community’s staff report.”

Stan Wisniewski, director of Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, and Bruce McClendon, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, addressed their concerns regarding coastal staff recommendations to Patrick Kruer, chair of the California Coastal Commission, in a letter dated January 8th.

Wisniewski and McClendon said they have not had sufficient time to review the December 24th coastal commission report and believe there are “several inaccuracies in the report, as well as areas where there remains disagreement between the coastal and county staff.”

The recommendations that timeshares or other forms of hotel ownership should be excluded from the definition of “hotel” or changing the existing in-lieu mitigation fee for lower cost overnight visitor accommodations are two points of disagreement, stated the letter.

Water quality-specific recommendations “would be better replaced with those generally requiring compliance with federal, state and local requirements in place when project development occurs” and would keep the LCP current rather static, according to Wisniewski and McClendon’s letter.

Public hearings in the Marina will be held on the coastal commission recommendations, said Wisniewski and McClendon.

Another commissioner said that the public’s “frustration and angst need to be listened to.”

Commissioner Wan spoke about the heron habitat, and said about the presence of the herons, “If this doesn’t constitute changed circumstances, I don’t know what does.”

Her comments referred to the county’s allegation that the certified 1996 Local Coastal Program didn’t include any environmental protections other than Area A, owned by Playa Vista at the time, and that there was no reason to now include environmental protections.

Wan also spoke about “relocation” programs for nesting herons, saying that studies had not been done to prove the programs worked in Long Beach.

Wan said that building “nesting platforms” for the herons was totally unacceptable and there was no proof the platforms or any relocation of the herons ever worked.

“We need to make a stand,” said Wan. “As far as ESHA is concerned, it’s either worth protecting or it’s not.”

Wan said that if this commission cares about the birds, that’s all they can do and they need to send the county a message because there are only two populations of great blue herons, the major one here in the Marina and a small one in Malibu.

The birds are finally able to have a chance, so don’t take this chance away, she said.

Deputy director Jack Ainsworth told the coastal commissioners before their vote that, “If this commission does choose to identify the stand of trees [where the heron rookery is located in the Marina] as ESHA, the designation is more of a judgment call, and that I am relying on the coastal staff’s recommendations based on their scientific background.”

Ainsworth also said, “It’s a non-starter for the county and won’t be accepted.”

The coastal commission staff had made an “extraordinary” effort to add “a higher level of protection for resources than the current situation allows,” said Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission.

The full report and modifications of the California Coastal Commission are on-line by going to “public meetings” and then clicking on “Marina del Rey LCP Periodic Review.”

The video of the meeting is also available on the same site and can be viewed by going to “archived videos” at www.coastal .ca.gov

In addition, the Web site cal-span.org has the video.

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