In an 11-1 vote, the California Coastal Commission approved a Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment at its Nov. 3 hearing in Oceanside, with modifications recommended by commission staff that change zoning rules for four “pipeline” projects in Marina del Rey.

The dissenting vote was by Esther Sanchez, the deputy mayor of Oceanside, who said she believed there was a commitment to refrain from reducing the number of boat slips and attempted to add language to the amendment guaranteeing that position.

County officials had maintained that the market had called for larger boats and wider slips to comply with Department of Boating and Waterways (DBAW) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

The four pipeline projects include Parcel OT, a 114-room senior accommodation facility with 3,500 square feet of commercial space; Parcel 10/FF, a 526-unit apartment project; Parcel 49/77, an application of the Waterfront Overlay Zone to facilitate an intensification of visitor-serving uses in association with the public launch ramp and the expansion of Burton Chace Park; and Parcel 52/GG, a 345-space dry stack storage facility with 30 mast-up storage spaces.

The Marina LCP periodic review was approved with modifications, and an application by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors was approved with conditions, to demolish and reconstruct six private leasehold marinas (Parcels 10, 21, 42/43, 44, 53 and 125); one public marina (Parcel 47); demolish docks and construct new public 300-foot-long side tie dock with nine side-by-side slips (Parcel EE), new public 333-foot-long, 14-slip dock with 120-foot-long side tie dock (Parcel 48); new 485-foot-long side tie dock with new public small craft rack system to accommodate 162 boats (Parcel 77); new public 150-foot-long side tie ramp at boat launch (Parcel 49R); construct new 12-slip public transient dock (Parcel BW); and new nine to 11 slip public transient dock (Parcel 9); 10 new vessel pump-out locations; and two new WaterBus stops operated by Beaches and Harbors.

Opponents of the bundled LCP amendment were angered by the commission’s approval of the pipeline projects. Many said they felt the commission members had not taken their comments seriously, nor had they responded to numerous requests by residents and several government officials such as Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, state Sen. Ted Lieu, and Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, to continue the Marina LCP hearing until January when the commission meets in Marina del Rey.

The loss of parking spaces and reduction of small boat slips were major issues that opponents to the LCP amendment cited as being ignored by the county and the commission.

The Venice Neighborhood Council and other adjoining neighborhood councils had requested a cumulative environmental impact assessment on the amendment and future projects, but their request was unanswered.

William Fujioka, the county’s chief executive officer, wrote to the Coastal Commission on Oct. 28, stating his support for the Marina LCP amendment and master Waterside Coastal Development permit application.

The letter stated in part, “As Los Angeles chief executive officer, I can speak directly to how much Marina del Rey matters to the residents of Los Angeles County from a fiscal perspective and how much our elected officials rely on the Marina’s revenues to provide basic county general fund services.”

“Marina revenue provides $21.6 million to the county’s general fund to provide public safety, social and health services to the millions of county residents. In addition, $22.4 million is utilized to fund the county’s operation of the Marina and to provide clean, safe and accessible beaches to more than 50 million visitors annually, as well as to provide the Department of Beaches and Harbors inner city youth boating, water safety and recreational programs,” said Fujioka.

“Accordingly, I do not believe I can emphasize enough how vital every single additional dollar earned in the Marina means to the residents of Los Angeles County.

“These funds are used to keep people from falling off the edge and to prevent the safety net from fraying beyond repair. This is not the only revenue that the county receives as the owner of the 804 acres of land and 360 acres of water that make up Marina del Rey, but also, from a municipal perspective, the over $5 million the county receives from Marina transient occupancy taxes to the $11 million received in personal property tax.

“And, this is all without risk to the county, which instead is fully borne by the private lessees who assume all risk associated with not only development of their leaseholds, but also continued maintenance and operation of the improvements built on the county’s land and water,” Fujioka stated in his letter.

In response to the LCP amendment approval, David Barish, co-director of the group We ARE Marina del Rey, said, “It was a sad day for the residents and recreational users of the Marina and the Great Blue Herons too.

“The commission chose to ignore the facts and kowtow to the county and its high-priced lobbyists. Just like Wall Street, it’s time to ‘Occupy the Coastal Commission,’” he claimed.

Santos Kreimann, director of Beaches and Harbors, told The Argonaut, “The approval by the California Coastal Commission of the county’s development plans will enable infrastructure improvements to proceed, which will go a long way towards reestablishing Marina del Rey as a vibrant residential community, an exciting vacation destination for travelers, and the premiere recreational boating venue in the nation.”

“We are very pleased that the plans approved by the Coastal Commission will enhance open space, improve public access, protect bird habitat and other natural resources in the Marina, and secure protections for the entry level boater not afforded to them under the existing Marina del Rey Local Coastal Plan,” said Kreimann.

Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Playa del Rey-based Ballona Institute, countered, “The real slap in the face to the public is that, despite pleas from Sen. Lieu, Assemblymember Betsy Butler and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the commission and its staff would not agree to convene such an important meeting in Marina del Rey.”

“All of the items the commission demanded for (California) Coastal Act compliance three years ago were summarily removed, and members of the public who could not attend a meeting so far away were denied the due process they deserved so their views on these reversals of policy could be fully heard,” Hanscom claimed.

“Do people realize the only free parking lot for the public in the region will be replaced with a high-end valet closet for power boats that will remove sky views, bird flyway paths, and a waterfront public access? I don’t think the coastal commissioners even realized how incompatible their vote was with the Coastal Act,” she said.

County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose Fourth District includes Marina del Rey, said the LCP major amendment is in response to the Coastal Commission’s request for a comprehensive look at individual projects requiring LCP amendments. It simplifies the current 14 existing development zones into three, and lays out a plan to improve recreation, boating, traffic congestion, infrastructure and parks, he said.

“Following three years of community and stakeholder input, I am thrilled to be moving forward in our plans to update this extraordinary destination for residents, boaters, visitors to Los Angeles County and all those who call it home,” said Knabe.

“Marina del Rey is a unique place with incredible potential. With the commission’s approval, we now have the opportunity to revitalize an area that hasn’t seen change in over 40 years. I appreciate all the valuable feedback we received in 79 public meetings, board hearings and community working groups.

“We made significant changes based on this input which I know will set us on a course to a better integrated urban waterfront with improved access to the water and greater services and amenities for all our residents and visitors,” the supervisor said.

The major amendment will now come before the Board of Supervisors for ratification to consider the changes approved by the Coastal Commission.

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