The California Coastal Commission approved and certified a request by Los Angeles County to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Marina del Rey Design Control Board and certified certain findings made in January regarding the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP).

The California Coastal Commission meeting was held in Ventura October 15th through 17th.

MARINA DEL REY DESIGN CONTROL BOARD — In approving the county request to amend the Marina del Rey certified Local Coastal Program that would change the Land Use Plan and the Implementation Plan, the coastal commission gave the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission primary responsibility over site plan approval and determination of project consistency with the Local Coastal Program.

The amendment eliminates the precondition that the Design Control Board initial conceptual review occur before land use entitlement requests are filed with the Department of Regional Planning.

The Design Control Board would conduct a conceptual review — architectural design, colors, signage, materials and landscaping — during the land use entitlement permit process and conceptual review phase, after which it would submit recommendations to the Regional Planning Commission in a timely manner prior to public hearings by the commission on land use entitlements, said coastal commission members.

On November 6th, Los Angeles County submitted a request for this amendment, and on January 9th the county and the coastal commission agreed to extend the 90-day time limit for consideration of the amendment to the total LCP for one additional year.

Commission staff stated that in 1995 the Design Control Board duties had been broadened because it was thought to be more efficient to have a single entity review for Local Coastal Program consistency, but both the Department of Regional Planning and the Design Control Board do this and there was confusion as to which had authority, resulting in a significant delay in the permit process for projects in moving forward to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

During public comment, Marina area residents David Barish and Nancy Vernon Marino, representing We ARE Marina del Rey, and others, including Carla Andrus, Jon Nahhas, Hans Etter and Coalition to Save the Marina executive director David De Lange, expressed their frustration at what they claim is the county’s efforts to silence their opposition to mega-projects in Marina del Rey by having the initial conceptual review process move to downtown Los Angeles during a daytime meeting with the Regional Planning Commission, requiring them to travel further and to attend meetings during their working hours.

Speakers said that the Design Control Board is the only entity that listens and gives the public an opportunity to voice their concerns.

Another serious issue is the recent implementation of new uniform protocols for county board and commission meetings. Under the new rules, public speakers would each be given only three minutes during a meeting, regardless of how many items are on the agenda.

While Small Craft Harbor Commission chair Russ Lesser advised the audience that, at his discretion, he would still allow more time to speak, there is a question as to whether this new three-minute ruling violates the Brown Act, which governs access to and participation in local government meetings and deliberations.

Public speakers told the coastal commission that they are outraged that their right to speak is being severely curtailed in addition to taking away what they say is their only opportunity to have a voice in the proposed development projects by removing the conceptual review process from the Design Control Board, which regularly meets in Marina del Rey.

Some speakers alleged that the only reason for this amendment was that the county wants to push through multiple developments and the Design Control Board was the only entity standing in the way, raising issues about problems with those developments.

Coastal commissioner Sara Wan said she is very disturbed by the three-minute time limit on speakers and that even though Lesser said he would allow more time, at his discretion, that would not apply to a Regional Planning Commission meeting and it’s “a violation of due process, going a long way to really restrict the public.”

Wan said she wants these meetings monitored to make sure that the public is given the appropriate amount of time to speak and that it was very troubling to her.

Commissioner Larry Clark noted the “public’s angst,” and asked if the Regional Planning Commission meetings could be held around the county in areas that are pertinent to those meetings.

County planner Gina Natoli said the meetings could be moved and that this amendment in no way took away the public’s right to speak.

MARINA DEL REY LOCAL COASTAL PROGRAM — At its periodic review of the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program on January 9th, the California Coastal Commission said Los Angeles County is not effectively implementing its certified Local Coastal Program for Marina del Rey in conformance with Coastal Act policies, and it made several findings and recommendations that would strengthen the LCP and address issues that local residents have fought to bring about for a number of years.

Discrepancies in the staff report on some of the findings prompted public comment at this October 16th meeting to correct those items to accurately reflect the coastal commissioners’ findings on January 9th.

California Coastal Commission deputy director John Ainsworth enumerated various revisions to the staff report that differed from the commissioners’ findings, saying that the staff’s understanding of what the commissioners had decided had been incorporated into staff recommendations.

The first item was a reference to the coastal commissioners asking the county to complete a comprehensive LCP update, and staff interpreted this to mean a comprehensive study.

Wan told developers, who were concerned that projects already in the pipeline might be delayed, that if their projects didn’t require an amendment to the Local Coastal Program, they had nothing to worry about.

She then told the coastal commission staff that all of the commissioners had consistently used the term “comprehensive LCP update,” not “comprehensive study.”

Wan said that she had been very specific in discussions at the January 9th meeting regarding reference to a comprehensive Local Coastal Program amendment, not just a comprehensive study.

Ainsworth said that Commissioner Steve Blank had used the term comprehensive study, and she responded that Blank had stated that he thought a comprehensive study should occur prior to a comprehensive LCP update, which Blank confirmed.

“I don’t understand why the staff has focused on what they have [focused on],” said Wan.

Wan said the commissioners’ concern was that “going project-by-project” was bad planning for the Marina.

The second item was the description of environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHAs).

The commissioners had found several sites to be environmentally sensitive habitat areas, and suggested that the county update the LCP to include this finding, removing language that refers to “sensitive biological resources” and replace it with “environmentally sensitive habitat areas.”

De Lange said that the staff report had removed important language from the report, changing the intent of the finding.

De Lange, referring to the January 9th meeting, stated that Blank had said, “These ESHA sites and others determined to be ESHA through a site-specific biological assessment of a project site shall be protected against significant disruption of habitat values, and only uses dependent on such resources shall be allowed within such areas.”

The staff had instead written, “Environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) designated within the Marina, as determined throughout site specific biological assessment of a project site, these shall be protected against significant disruption of habitat values, and only uses dependent on such resources shall be allowed within such areas.”

De Lange said that the coastal staff’s changes had ignored Blank’s intention of protecting the environmentally sensitive habitat areas determined by staff biologist Dr. Jonna Engel and instead worded it so that if the site was determined to be an environmentally sensitive habitat area it would be done in the county’s entitlement processes.

Wan agreed, adding that the staff had put two paragraphs in its report regarding the county’s objections to the inclusion of environmentally sensitive habitat areas.

The public already spoke about that in January, Wan said, adding that she didn’t understand why the staff devoted two paragraphs to something that had already been rejected.

She then asked for a vote among the commission members to direct the staff to strengthen the summary section of the report as the original stands related to describing environmentally sensitive habitat area sites. The vote was a unanimous 7-0.

Blank said that while “environmentally sensitive habitat area” has standing under the law, biological sensitive resources do not.

The third item that the staff failed to include was a reference to herons, which speaker Marcia Hanscom of the Ballona Institute said originally contained the specific words “nesting and roosting,” and staff had left out the word “roosting,” which they said would be restored.

The last issue was Wan’s reference to protecting views not only of the water but of the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains when building developments in the Marina.

Ainsworth told her that the staff’s understanding was to delete that last part.

After Wan looked at the transcript, she said that she had intended to be more positive about not just protecting the water view but also the mountain view, but as the staff deleted the sentence at the commission’s request, that interpretation by the staff would stand.

During public comment, some speakers said that boat slips less than 35 feet are still being removed, against the findings of the coastal commission.

Acting Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors director Santos Kreimann, said that with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the new Department of Boating and Waterways (DBAW) standards, old boat slips and docks are inadequate, adding that boats are getting larger and wider.

The entire report and a video of the proceedings can be viewed on the California Coastal Commission Web site, www.coastal.ca.gov/, by clicking on “Video archives of previous meetings.”

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