Development projects in Marina del Rey will not have a moratorium placed on them during the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) Periodic Review, said Gina Natoli, supervising regional planner for the County of Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning.

The county has the right to ask for amendments to the Local Coastal Program, said Natoli, in response to a speaker who said that new and remodeled developments are violating the LCP.

The Department of Regional Planning hosted a community meeting Thursday, August 21st, at the Marina del Rey Hotel to discuss the LCP with residents and develop a process by which the community can provide input.

Natoli said the Department of Regional Planning anticipates receiving the Local Coastal Program Periodic Review after the California Coastal Commission adopts its recommendations at the commission’s October hearing, and that the county then has one year to respond.

A Periodic Review of the Local Coastal Program, conducted by the California Coastal Commission, provides recommendations and comments on the implementation of the LCP’s Land Use Plan and whether that implementation is in conformity with the California Coastal Act.

The Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program, updated and certified in 1996, is a two-part document that includes a Land Use Plan and a Local Implementation Plan, and while the Periodic Review is meant to comment on the Local Implementation Plan only, the review provides an opportunity for community input into the entirety of the plan, according to county documentation.

Two types of working groups will be formed, one based on Coastal Commission Periodic Review categories, and the other on existing community groups, with individuals participating in any group or groups they choose, said Natoli.

Categories include recreational boating, marine resources and water quality, new development, transportation and circulation, recreation and visitor facilities, public access, biological resources and environmentally sensitive habitats, and cultural resources, hazards and procedures.

The kickoff meeting for the working groups is scheduled for Wednesday, October 29th, and while Natoli said that the meeting would be held at the Burton Chace Park Community Building in Marina del Rey, one of the public speakers at the meeting, Jon Nahhas, said that facility was much too small for the anticipated audience, prompting Natoli to say that the county would study options for a larger venue.

The community meeting format consisted of opening comments by Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents the Fourth District on the Board of Supervisors, which includes the Marina; an explanation of the Periodic Review, the process for response and a timeline; and a question and answer period.

Knabe said the meeting is a beginning of the process to respond to the LCP Periodic Review, pending adoption by the California Coastal Commission, and that the public would be listened to and taken seriously.

Knabe also complimented Santos Kreimann, acting director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors.

“Santos is a breath of fresh air and it will not be business as usual in Marina del Rey,” said Knabe.

Natoli said that the Department of Regional Planning is the lead in this process, which includes public participation, the Department of Beaches and Harbors, the Department of Public Works, county counsel, the Small Craft Harbor Commission, the Marina del Rey Design Control Board, and ultimate approval by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The clock starts ticking for the one-year response by the county when it receives the transmittal from the California Coastal Commission, said Natoli.

The Department of Regional Planning will meet with the working groups once a month to hear what the public likes and doesn’t like for the Marina, what the public thinks will and won’t work and to evaluate recommendations.

All of the information gathered between the end of October and spring will be compiled into a report, which will become a draft report by summer and then released to the public, Natoli said.

A community meeting with the Department of Regional Planning will follow for responses to the draft report, and the Small Craft Harbor Commission and Design Control Board will be asked to put the draft report on their individual meeting agendas to allow more public input.

After any revisions to the draft report based on public input in early fall next year, the final report will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors for approval, and then transmitted to the California Coastal Commission.

The question and answer period was limited to one question per speaker, rather than allowing a more usual three minutes of public comment for each speaker.

Many of the speakers expressed their frustration with this format, and one speaker said this gave the appearance of not taking public input seriously.

Some speakers’ frustrations were also directed toward Knabe, who remained for the entire meeting, telling him they were tired of not being responded to when calling his office, and the fact that he declined to come to public meetings when asked.

“You [Knabe] and the other supervisors are our public servants, and you are required to respond to your constituents,” said one speaker.

Knabe did not respond directly to any comments or questions directed toward him.

Natoli said that public input is taken very seriously by the county and that she and other planners want to hear everything that the public has to say.

Several other speakers said this meeting conflicted with a summer concert by a world-famous musician, and they wondered why the county would have scheduled the two events at the same time unless it was to decrease the number of attendees at the meeting.

Natoli said that was not the case, and that the county had a limited time frame in which to get this meeting scheduled and input gathered before the California Coastal Commission meeting in October.

Another speaker said he had been coming to meetings like this for 33 years and has seen nothing but “showboating” and no response, and asked why this meeting shouldn’t be considered a sham for the coastal commission.

“This is a process and we must respond to the coastal commission; this is not a sham,” said Natoli.

Affordable housing and senior housing were other topics brought up, with a speaker saying that people who had lived in the Marina for many years would be discriminated against if such housing availability was determined on a lottery or first-come basis. She said she had written to Knabe and others and never received a response.

The beginning of the Marina as a recreational stand-alone harbor was mentioned by one speaker, who said that the lines became blurred between county use and public use, with businesses now taking up space needed by boaters.

You need to go back to the Land Use Plan and see what was designed and what was voted for, and that there was no dialogue with the public and stakeholders are paying for it, he said.

“The certified LCP governs what happens now and we want to hear everything you have to say, but we can’t guarantee that the Board of Supervisors will adopt the public’s recommendations,” Natoli said.

“County officials and Stan Wisniewski, former Department of Beaches and Harbors director, used to say that holding meetings before the California Coastal Commission hearing was pointless, so what has changed now that we suddenly have to have a meeting?” asked one speaker.

Natoli said it’s important now because adequate lead time is needed to “hit the ground running” after the coastal commission response.

The former Benihana restaurant on Panay Way was mentioned by a speaker, who asked why the property has been sitting empty for so long, denying revenue to the county.

Natoli said she didn’t know the history of that parcel, but would get the information, saying, “It’s not our policy to let property sit.”

“Anything that happens in this Marina happens to its neighbors, and Marina del Rey has the Venice Neighborhood Council to the north, the Del Rey Neighborhood Council to the east and Westchester-Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council to the south,” said DeDe Audet, president emeritus of the Venice Neighborhood Council, referring to the official City of Los Angeles councils in communities neighboring Marina del Rey proper, which is an unincorporated county-owned area.

Audet also asked what assurances could be given that recommendations by the public are either accepted or, if rejected, done so with a reasonable reason for the rejection.

Natoli said there are no guarantees and she couldn’t assure that recommendations by the public would be approved by the legislative body.

“It’s very clear that the county has a need to get revenue from the Marina,” said Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Ballona Institute, eliciting loud laughter from the audience. “The resolution is to determine how much money you need and what the Board of Supervisors is looking for. If we get to that answer we can help the county refocus its efforts.”

Hanscom suggested that the county “utilize the area as the incredible environmental benefit that it is, embracing eco-values such as promoting a harbor seal view and to look toward finding revenues that way.”

Natoli said she wants these kinds of ideas from the public by providing input and helping to make the case.

Other speakers who said a master plan for the Marina was vital were told by Natoli that the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program is the master plan and was certified in 1996, to which some audience members responded that if that is the case, this master plan is being ignored by the county.

One speaker asked Knabe if he was going to be involved “in this piecemeal workshop and what role he would play.”

Natoli said that Knabe’s office would not be involved until the Board of Supervisors gets the final report for review and approval.

One speaker suggested that people living in the Marina who are being displaced should have a Web site to go to for information.

There is a shortage of affordable living for working people, she said, asking, “Why do you county officials refuse to uphold the existing law regarding amendments not in compliance with the LCP?”

“The planning process allows amendments,” said Natoli.

After public questions, Natoli discussed the working group formation.

The working groups will not include anyone from county government, and if individuals prefer not joining a group but want to participate, they can respond to the planning department by phone, fax, or letter, said Natoli.

Nahhas said it was important for the groups to also get together and communicate, and Natoli said the county would schedule a get-together of the groups.

The question of how to notify members of the public so they could participate in the process brought some irritation when Natoli said the county didn’t have lists to get in touch with a variety of individuals.

Some boat owners said they had not received notice of this meeting, and one resident of the Marina area that is in Los Angeles based on zip codes, said she had not gotten a notice because she doesn’t have a Marina del Rey zip code.

One speaker observed that the county has no problems locating individuals when it’s time to send out tax bills to boat owners, suggesting that the county avail itself of that information for outreach.

Audet noted that three local City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils that will be affected by this Local Coastal Program are in 11th Council District, so working through their elected representative would be a good idea.

Natoli and regional planning assistant Jeff Suarez can be contacted at Department of Regional Planning, 320 W. Temple St., 13th Floor, Los Angeles 90012-3225; (213) 974-6422; fax, (213) 626-0434; coastal@planning.la county.gov/; or www.planning.la county.gov/spMarinaReview.htm/.

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