Los Angeles County Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe, in a sternly worded letter issued on August 31st, has asked state Sen. Jenny Oropeza to rescind a resolution that he and other county authorities say has the potential to halt development in Marina del Rey.
Oropeza introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 56 late last month as a means to request that county officials work with the California Coastal Commission and other public interest groups to ensure that coastal development is consistent with Marina del Rey’s Local Coastal Program (LCP). A recent commission report states that the county has not complied with the Coastal Act of 1975 and the Marina del Rey’s Local Coastal Program (LCP).
“What the resolution is requesting them to do is to update the Local Coastal Program,” Oropeza explained during an exclusive interview with The Argonaut. “Each LCP includes a land use plan and measures to implement the plan, such as zoning ordinances.
“Marina del Rey’s LCP has not been updated since 1996, and last January, the California Coastal Commission found that Marina del Rey’s LCP was out of conformity with the California Environmental Quality Act and the California Coastal Act of 1975.”
Knabe, as chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, implied that the senator’s proposal was not based on factual data.
“To put it simply, your resolution is based on considerable misinformation,” Knabe wrote.
The supervisor took issue with the assertion that there has been little public input with respect to development in the affluent coastal area and stated that the county’s plan “to address the concerns of the California Coastal Commission regarding the Marina’s Local Coastal Program has already been endorsed by the commission.”
“Thus, to say that the county is not complying with what the Coastal Commission has asked it to do is simply not true,” Knabe wrote. “As such, I respectfully request that you withdraw Senate Concurrent Resolution 56.”
The tone of the letter underscored the disparate views on development in the coastal zone between local authorities and state legislators, and is the first time in recent memory that a state lawmaker has waded into the frequently acrimonious debate between county officials and public interest groups over Marina del Rey development.
Oropeza said that her decision was based on the collection of data from state agencies and was indeed factual.
“The resolution is based on facts provided to us by appropriate state agencies,” the senator countered. “The effect of a Senate resolution is to express a point of view or opinion. It does not carry the force of law.”
Santos Kreimann, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said that his agency has been addressing many of the commission’s recommendations, including devising a new parking study and an open space study at Burton Chace Park.
Kreimann believes that if the senator’s resolution, which calls for a comprehensive review of all Marina del Rey development, becomes law at some point, the economic consequences for the region could be dire.
“It would in effect stop all projects that are conforming to the LCP and essentially put a moratorium on development projects in Marina del Rey,” he said.
One of several recommendations by the commission is to look at what future projects’ cumulative impacts will have on the region, said Al Padilla, a coastal program analyst with the Coastal Commission.
“The commission has indicated to the county that future projects, with the exception of six that are currently in the pipeline, should undergo a more extensive review,” Padilla said.
Organizations that have actively opposed development in Marina del Rey and the surrounding coastal communities of Playa del Rey and Venice applauded the senator’s proposal.
Cheryl Burnett, a Playa del Rey resident, believes that the resolution addresses what many coastal residents have expressed in recent years — the need for comprehensive planning and a concern with regional overdevelopment.
“We have a number of proposed projects on Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey,” noted Burnett, who is active with a grassroots community group to save a plot of land near Del Rey Lagoon known as Egret Park. “How do they fit together, and what are the impacts of traffic and density issues?”
Dr. David DeLange, the executive director of Coalition to Save the Marina, was thrilled to hear that Oropeza has decided to weigh in on what he termed longtime noncompliance of the Coastal Act and LCP.
“A real pleasant surprise,” he said of the proposal.
DeLange said that he has long felt that if a change in the way of development and environmental planning were to take place locally, a state lawmaker would be forced to intervene.
“We have thought for quite some time that this would end up in the Legislature if (the Coastal Commission) found that there was a lack of compliance,” said DeLange, who is also the president of the Los Angeles Audubon Society. “The Legislature can force compliance.”
While the resolution specifically discusses the Marina LCP, it does consider development along the coast of Los Angeles.
“The resolution does reflect the view of the Legislature that all coastal projects should include protection of the coast,” Oropeza pointed out. “Municipalities should work with the California Coastal Commission toward that end.”
Oropeza said that from her standpoint, the size and scope of new projects and renovations are only part of the conversation.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s a question of smaller or larger,” she stated. “This is more a question of encouraging the county to work with the locals and affected parties through the LCP process, which is what it is designed to do.”
Kreimann said a comprehensive review could take as long as five to seven years, which would bring a halt to many of the projects that are underway.
“It’s a very lengthy process,” Padilla confirmed.
Kreimann also added that while a vocal contingent has accused the county of adding amendments instead of complying with the LCP, the amendment process is not a new one, citing several cities that have included many changes to their coastal plans.
“Santa Cruz County has submitted 107 amendments and Santa Barbara County has submitted a total of 89 amendments to their LCP,” said the Beaches and Harbors director. “In contrast, the County of Los Angeles has submitted three amendments for processing since the original certification of the LCP.”
Venice resident Challis Macpherson believes that if other cities and communities were to use the Venice Specific Plan as a blueprint for development, they would avoid the acrimony that is occurring in Marina del Rey. Macpherson, chair of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee, said that her community’s planning document was one of the most stringent regarding types of development and community feedback.
“Our specific plan is our shield,” she asserted. “If (Oropeza) wants to do something for her constituents, she should advise them about how to develop a plan like ours that will protect them.”
Marina del Rey uses an asset management strategy, which Kreimann says is similar to a city’s general plan. General plans are a municipality’s policy guide for land use.
Oropeza said that she is hopeful that a more civil discussion will soon take place regarding the implementation of the LCP recommendations.
“We are trying to encourage all parties to come together on an issue that has been extremely divisive. One overarching issue to keep in mind is that this is a resolution, not a mandate,” she reiterated. “We are simply expressing the sense of the Legislature.”
Knabe’s office did not return calls from The Argonaut as of press time. All questions pertaining to the commission’s recommendations were referred to Kreimann.