Community members voice concerns on proposed dry-stack storage project in Marina del Rey

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Posted February 16, 2012 by helgagendell in News - Features
A public hearing on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for a proposed dry-stack storage project in Marina del Rey was held Feb. 8 in the Marina.

The county filed a notice of completion of the DEIR in January, initiating the 60-day formal review period, which includes the public hearing. The deadline for comments is Monday, March 5.

The site for the proposed Boat Central project is at 13483 Fiji Way on Basin H, near the public launch ramp, and is comprised of land and water areas on Parcels 52 and GG in Marina del Rey. The general partners of MDR Boat Central, L.P. are MDR Boat Central, LLC, Pacific Marina Development, Inc. (principals are Jeff Pence and Tom Hogan), and Almar Marinas, LLC.

At a July 2007 Marina del Rey Design Control Board meeting, chair Susan Cloke, vice chair Peter Phinney and board member David Abelar questioned whether the project could be moved ahead without their approval, and they asked if there was a way to get the Department of Regional Planning to deny the project or remand it to the Design Control Board.

They were told by county counsel that while the project could be disapproved by the department, or the developer could be asked to revise it, the applicant still had the right to appeal that decision to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Cloke claimed at the time, “This project violates the public trust and is the most egregious proposal,” adding that the design board had voted to protect the water, and that she “couldn’t believe there was no other alternative to a dry-stack storage.”

Requirements for the project’s development include the DEIR; a conditional use permit to authorize the dry-stack storage use, the sheriff’s boatwright/lifeguard facility and dockside fueling of boats in the proposed boat storage land use category;

A coastal development permit to authorize the demolition of all existing improvements and the subsequent construction of a new dry-stack storage building, pedestrian promenade, a boaters’ lounge and office, and the boatwright/lifeguard facility;

A parking permit to allow for reduction of parking spaces from the required 197 spaces to the proposed 147 (includes 13 valet) spaces, and to allow for the use of valet parking; and

A variance to authorize construction of the dry-stack building within the five-foot rear yard setback and within 15 feet of the bulkhead.

The boat storage structure would accommodate a maximum of 345 boats and 28 boat trailers. Due to the sloping topography of the project site, which descends approximately eight feet from the street to the bulkhead, the height of the dry-stack storage structure above ground will be approximately 67 feet at Fiji Way and 75 feet along the water.

The storage facility will extend over the water of Basin H by approximately 97 feet on the western side of the storage facility and 45 feet on the eastern side. A crane housed within the storage facility will be utilized to move or hoist boats to and from the water and the storage spaces.

The crane, which spans the central 60 feet of the structure and runs its length, will reach a height of 73.5 to 81.5 feet. Pursuant to county code, the height of the crane is not regulated, since it is used to move and hoist boats.

Along Fiji Way, the structure frontage would be approximately 138 feet in length. Along with the facility, new docks will be constructed on the water side to allow for conveyance of people to and from their boats and temporary queuing of boats. The new docks would extend into the water in Basin H, up to 200 feet on the western side of the storage facility and up to 102 feet on the eastern side.

In the northeastern corner of the project site, 30 dry storage spaces will be created for mast-up sailboats within a fenced area. A fixed landside hoist approximately 20 to 25 feet in height is included to convey sailboats to and from the water, and a boat wash-down facility will be included on the site.

The project will include a new 6,335-square foot, two-story office building (sheriff’s boatwright/lifeguard facility) an existing use onsite that will be relocated to the new building, and an office and customer lounge.

Currently, the waterside uses of the project include a dock utilized by charter fishing tours, dining and other cruises. The surrounding land uses consist of a public boat storage and public boat launch ramp to the north and east of the site, the West Marina boat maintenance and repair facility to the west, and the Ballona Wetlands ecological reserve to the east.

During public comment Feb. 8, Andy Bessette, president of the Marina Boatowners Association, said that excluded in the presentation was the “dangerous, ridiculous narrow access to boats and the water.” He added that the “dry-stack storage was for the wealthiest, taking away sail boat slips. It’s all about the money, with no safety concerns.”

Dan Ginzburg, co-owner of FantaSea Yachts, said his company began in 1980, and visitors from all over the world utilize it. He said, “25,000 visitors have boarded at Dock 52, and it’s the primary dock in Marina del Rey on the non-residential side, but you wouldn’t know that reading the DEIR.

“The dock is the commercial gateway for primary fishing charters. With the public dock to be eliminated, it would turn a vital area into boat storage.”

Ginzburg added, “the project had been rejected by both the Small Craft Harbor Commission and the Design Control Board, and less than 100 words in the DEIR address the dock and parking replacement. For clarity and fairness, it is too vital to not be told the ‘who, what, and where’ of the project and the need for comparable parking prior to the elimination of Dock 52,” he said.

Beverly Moore, executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “My organization is responsible for promoting tourism, water sports and boat usage. There are very few opportunities to get on the water without owning a boat, and it is an essential experience.”

Moore said that a random survey had shown that 60,000 to 70,000 people use the public dock. “We do need dry stack storage, but we need to clearly identify what the effect will be. Charter operators will need a new home,” she stated.

Jon Nahhas, local resident and boater, said the presentation lacked a video that was reported lost since being shown at the scoping meeting, which shows how the operation functions, and he said it was a vital component to understanding the project.

He pointed out that many people utilize the parking lot for biking and recreation, and that the dry stack wasn’t affordable at a proposed cost of $25 per foot per month. In addition, he claimed that it would be dangerous for boat traffic and launching of boats, especially in summer during high peak usage.

Resident Nancy Vernon Marino also spoke on the safety factor and difficult launching access. “The project is the poster child for unintended consequences for lack of a master plan for Marina development.” She said that while dry-stack storage is needed, it “should not encroach on existing public use and access, diminishing the quality of boating.” She noted that the wind shadow of a “solid, plastic wall” would deter small boats getting started out, and could be dangerous for entry-level boaters.

Greg Schem, the lessee of the Boat Yard, adjacent to the proposed Boat Central, said he agrees dry-stack storage is needed, but he was concerned about the over-the-water design. He said his slip tenants are losing their views and quiet enjoyment of the Marina, with the proposed facility as close as 65 feet to their vessels. Schem expressed concern that he would lose some tenants and suggested an alternative design for the landside portion of the project.

Capt. Alex Balian of Paradise Bound Yacht Charters, said he’s been operating the charter for 22 years, and he agrees with Ginzburg’s and Moore’s comments. The relocation spot for his charter boat and for other charters has not yet been addressed, he said, and the impact of the project is significant. Relocation to Fisherman’s Village would need to be dove-tailed, and that aspect has been delayed, he said. Balian alleged that some charter operators are not licensed, operating illegally and using other docks without paying fees, and that this needs to be addressed as well.

“The impact of one (new) business on other businesses shouldn’t have such a drastic effect,” said Balian. “The congestion on Saturdays near the launch ramp, unable to move boats, kids coming in and out, it would be a disaster.”

Mia Falkenstein, director of sales for Hornblower Cruises and Events, said the company has been located at Fisherman’s Village since the mid-1980s, and this project has a direct impact on boating and charter access. She said that Fisherman’s Village is overtaxed with existing usage right now, and the negative impact of other charters coming in would affect Fisherman’s Village visitors and parking.

Roger Van Wert, who represents Boat Central, said the project wouldn’t disrupt existing charter and cruise functions, and that those are priority uses. He noted that the DEIR does contain a wind study, in response to a speaker claiming that it doesn’t. Van Wert said that the “how, what, when and where” does need clarification and that with the start of the project not anticipated before 2013, there was time to implement a solution by working with the county and interested parties.

County hearing examiner Paul McCarthy said the next public hearing will be in downtown Los Angeles, but the date and time have yet to be determined. He suggested that the public come prepared with specific comments about the DEIR, and all comments will be incorporated into the final EIR.

Several public speakers said that not enough people showed up for the meeting, and that it was important for proper noticing of meetings because a lot of boaters weren’t aware of the meeting. Nahhas suggested that a tele-remote meeting be conducted, so that people wouldn’t have to go to downtown.

Copies of the document are available for review online, listed under

County Project No. R2008-02340” at http://planning.lacounty.gov/case/all.

The copies are also available at the following libraries: Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library, 4533 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; and Abbot Kinney Memorial Library, 501 S. Venice Blvd., Venice.

Written comments on the DEIR may be submitted to Anita Gutierrez at the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, Special Projects Section, Room 1362, 320 W. Temple St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Information, (213) 974-4813.