By Gary Walker
Marina del Rey will soon have additional funding to allocate for recreational programming and critical infrastructure enhancements such as landscaping, signage and park equipment.
The county Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a motion by Supervisor Don Knabe June 18 that will double the annual contribution to the Marina Accumulative Capital Outlay Fund from $2 million to $4 million as well as determine the annual increase in hotel transient occupancy taxes from fiscal year 2011-12 and allocate that increase on an annual basis to the county Department of Beaches and Harbors.
“Marina del Rey is one of Los Angeles County’s most precious regional assets and we need to ensure it has continuous funding for projects that improve the quality of life for residents and visitors,” Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey, said after the vote. “Right now, most of the revenue generated by Marina del Rey goes back into the county’s general fund with very little set aside for improvements to the Marina. That’s simply not fair.
“My motion called for ongoing funding which will allow for upgrades and repairs to landscaping, bikeways, walking paths, play equipment, community meeting space and other public area improvements because no funding has been available for these items after meeting the most basic of the Marina’s infrastructure needs,” the supervisor continued. “I appreciate the board’s support in making good stewardship of the Marina a regional priority.”
The county has also been engaged in extensive infrastructure projects that have cost several million dollars in the Marina in recent months.
The Marina del Rey Seawall Refurbishment Program and the replacement of the Burton Chace Park docks are two of the larger initiatives that county officials have initiated, costing $7.5 million and $7.4 million, respectively.
“We have made significant strides in developing a vision for the Marina del Rey of the future. The private sector has committed to investments of nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars for the next generation – it is now time for the county to put its money where its mouth is and make our crown jewel a priority,” said Knabe.
Real estate transaction fees have been used to pay for many of the abovementioned necessities. But Knabe feels that because the community’s lessees, or leaseholders, have made investments in their parcel, the county should do its part as well by increasing the contribution to the capital outlay fund.
The allocation from Marina hotels’ and motels’ transient occupancy taxes, known as the hotel bed tax, will go toward Marina-based events and programs that Beaches and Harbors has been providing for decades as well as toward new summer activities.
The transient occupancy tax is charged in California when occupying a room or rooms or other living space in a hotel, inn, tourist home or house, motel or other lodging for a period of 30 days or more.
Camping sites and recreational vehicle parks can also be subjected to the levy.
Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman Carol Baker said the new revenue won’t be available for this year from many of the hotels because some have been closed for renovations. But the new revenue stream could help bolster summer programs and many of the coastal enclave’s existing activities and events, such as the new Marina del Rey Farmers Market, the Thursday night “Beach Eats” food trucks event and the WaterBus.
“We would look to expand or extend things like the WaterBus season,” said Baker. “It is very popular and we definitely think there is a demand for it beyond the summer.”
Other activities that could be the beneficiaries of the future largess are the popular Marina Summer Concert Series and “Discover Marina del Rey Day,” according to county documents.
The motion also raised the participation fees from real estate transactions, including transfers, sales or refinancing of leasehold interests.
At the same meeting, the supervisors approved a leasehold change from Esprit One LLC to Gateway KW-Esprit I LCC, which will net the county $10.8 million – an example of a participation fee. The overlay fund will receive $4.3 million from the Esprit transaction.
The county’s buyout of the Marina’s four Archstone parcels brought $2.2 million to its coffers, in addition to $13.4 million that is being held in an escrow account pending the resolution of the amount due to Marina del Rey’s lease participation provision.
The future participation fees that will be owed to the county refinancing, sale or assignment from leasehold interests are as follows:
Participation fees up to $1 million: 100 percent, participation fees from $1 million to $5 million: 50 percent, from $5 million to $10 million: 25 percent and above $10 million, 10 percent, according to county staff reports.
Baker said there is one area where she would like to see significant enhancements, given the region’s history and proximity to the beach.
“One thing that we would really like to focus on is our recreational boating activities,” she said. “This is a real priority for us.”
Beaches and Harbors will have a summer program this year that caters to inland youth who have little access to the ocean.
The board has long viewed Marina del Rey as one of the county’s most valuable assets and has begun a variety of projects designed to polish what Knabe calls “the crown jewel” of the county. Traffic improvements on Admiralty Way, the community’s primary artery, are nearly completed and soon a tree planting initiative to replace dozens of ficus trees with native plants and trees will begin later this summer.
Knabe said it has been difficult to work out the details that went into his motion, but it has been worth the wait.
“I have been trying to do this for a long time,” the supervisor said. “It’s long overdue and I think it will vastly improve the look and feel of Marina del Rey for years to come.”