Conceptual approval with conditions for Villa Venetia Apartments and Condominiums at the south end of Fiji Way by the Marina del Rey Design Control Board will move the project on to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for review.

The Marina del Rey Design Control Board met at a special night meeting Thursday, October 26th, at the Burton Chace Park Community Building in Marina del Rey.

Conditions attached to the conceptual approval include that:

— the architect develop drawings with a more varied “roof-scape”;

— contiguous roof levels be minimalized;

— greater transparency be developed at building corners and connect with the ground floor;

— residence-serving retail be enhanced to encourage viable public use, such as a restaurant or other amenity;

— the promenade development be innovative and complementary to public use;

— there be public restrooms;

— there be authentic and sustainable landscaping that extends the project into adjacent wetlands;

— there be a visual link to Fisherman’s Village; and

— there be confirmation of the viability and feasibility of a pipeline conduit that transports seawater, as discussed with the U.S. Department of Fish and Game pertaining to tidal return to an ecological preserve.

During public comment, some Villa Venetia residents and the Coalition to Save the Marina presented information relating to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Plan (LCP) from 1996, stating that the proposed development violates the local coastal plan.

These individuals and their attorney, Frank Angel, said that the local coastal plan has “view protection language” stating “that existing views shall not be significantly disturbed.”

Group representatives superimposed a rendering of the proposed Villa Venetia site over views of the area as it is now from the north/south jetty and the UCLA Boathouse, showing that there was blockage of the existing views of the sky, mountains, hills and natural settings, as well as views from the water toward land.

HERONRY RELOCATION—

Development of the Villa Venetia site involves the removal of nine mature Monterey cypresses and one Monterey pine tree, several of which have been used for nesting by great blue herons.

County documentation declared that removing the trees entirely from the Villa Venetia site was prudent because some of the trees were dying.

County documentation also said, “The birds, and their guano, will continue to interfere with the public’s use of the site and the proposed new promenade and associated public amenities that will be built by the applicant.”

In an e-mail dated October 27th to David DeLange — one of those opposed to the county removing trees where herons nest — Deborah Lee, the senior deputy director in the South Coast District Office of the California Coastal Commission, said, “We did previously contact both the county and Villa Venetia management about unauthorized tree-trimming activity and advised them that such work constituted ‘development’ under the county’s certified LCP and thus needed a coastal development permit.

“We advised them that the trees supporting the heron rookery presented ‘major vegetation’ and could also be found to be an ESHA (environmentally sensitive habitat area).

“Earlier this week, we have again sent correspondence to the county indicating that the executive director (of the California Coastal Commission) is prepared to issue a cease-and-desist order to stop the removal of ‘major vegetation consisting of tree limbs, branches and foliage which support heron and egret nests and roosts without a coastal development permit’ on county properties.”

“We have advised the county of this position again on the bases that identified trees constitute ‘major vegetation’ and qualify as ESHA, and at this juncture, it is my understanding that the county has agreed to defer the work until after we can have a meeting to discuss the matter,” Lee continued.

The specific periodic review of the Marina Local Coastal Plan (LCP) affords the coastal commission, the County of Los Angeles and interested parties the opportunity to address the implementation of the certified LCP and consider new information about development trends and coastal resource protection, Lee said.

The recommendations ultimately adopted by the coastal commission do not amend the existing LCP, but the public process will result in subsequent planning efforts and LCP amendments from the local government if it is recognized that there is a need to modify LCP provisions, according to Lee.

Even if the coastal commission were to make a determination in the periodic review that it is an environmentally sensitive habitat area, it would simply be a recommendation for the county, it would not de facto amend the certified LCP, said Lee.

A new staff biologist for the California Coastal Commission, Dr. Jonna Engel, has already visited the Marina to begin considering environmental questions and to look at other habitat areas, along with the Ballona Wetlands, Lee said.

A biological expert hired by the Villa Venetia project applicant, Dr. Jeffrey B. Froke, had submitted a written opinion based on what he claimed was an on-site assessment of the heron nesting sites over a specific period, and had discussed that information at an earlier Design Control Board meeting.

Independent biological experts such as John Hodder of California Wetlands Research and Robert “Roy” van de Hoek both alleged that Froke’s work did not convey the correct information regarding the courting and nesting habits of the herons, and that the study should be redone.

During public comment, environmental experts and speakers primarily addressed the situation with the herons being uprooted and trees removed by the proposed Villa Venetia project.

County counsel informed the Design Control Board that it was not in its purview to make a decision relating to issues such as the herons and tree removal that would be covered in the environmental impact study at a later time.

Design board member Peter Phinney admonished audience members for spending their public speaking time focusing on saving the heron nesting areas, and told them that, if they really wanted to influence changes in the project, they should be addressing the size of the project, parking and other concerns.

VILLA VENETIA APARTMENTS — The Villa Venetia Apartments and Condominiums project proposed by Lyon Capital Ventures, LLC consists of demolishing all existing landside improvements on the 6.39-acre land parcel and constructing a new residential complex of dwelling units with parking and landscaping.

The architectural program consists of three distinct buildings (appearing as four) rising from a raised podium and plaza level over an expansive covered parking garage/service area, according to county documents.

Buildings of various heights would consist of the following program elements:

— three buildings containing 479 new dwelling units (263 apartments and 216 condominium units), with a net increase of 255 units;

— an expansive central landscaped plaza;

— two levels of covered parking (1,047 spaces);

— recreational facilities, including a pool and health club/gym;

— visitor and resident-serving waterfront retail and appurtenances (less than 3,000 square feet); and

— new boat anchorage (21 to 34 slips) and accessible boating-related facilities.

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