The news that Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe would make an appearance in Marina del Rey Thursday, June 12th sparked a great deal of interest among Marina del Rey boat owners and residents.
Many of them have rarely, or in some cases never, had the opportunity to speak directly to the supervisor regarding their disagreements with much of what the county is planning for the coastal enclave in the areas of development, parking and boat tenancies.
That excitement quickly turned to disappointment when it was learned two days before the announced visit that Knabe would not be coming to the Marina after all.
In two press releases, one issued on June 2nd and the other on June 9th, county representatives indicated that the supervisor would be making a rare appearance in the Marina.
“Supervisor Don Knabe and (acting director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors) Santos H. Kreimann invite the public to attend an open forum where community residents and businesses can gather and meet regarding important Marina del Rey issues,” the releases stated.
David Sommers, Knabe’s press deputy, confirmed that the documents that indicated the supervisor would be in the area were mistakes that originated in county offices.
“Supervisor Knabe is not trying to avoid anyone in the Marina,” Sommers told The Argonaut. “It was just a miscommunication between our office and Beaches and Harbors.”
Residents of Marina del Rey had varied reactions after learning that Knabe would not be at the meeting, where many were hoping to question him about concerns that they have been directing towards Kreimann and others for months.
“I would tell Supervisor Knabe that Marina del Rey desperately needs a clean development slate, followed by the creation of a professional master plan that takes into account the various needs of the Marina del Rey community at large,” replied David Barish in an e-mail response to what he would have liked to say to the supervisor.
“The master plan needs to look at traffic, environmental and social impacts, recreation and public access, among other things.”
Groups of Marina del Rey activists have complained that the area should have a master plan for development. Currently, there is no such document.
Beaches and Harbors officials are employing what they call an asset management strategy regarding the refurbishing and redevelopment of the Marina, while the Local Coastal Program serves as the blueprint for developing Marina del Rey.
County officials and the California Coastal Commission, the body that is charged with the protection and restoration of the ocean and coastal regions, are at odds over the implementation of some of the commission’s findings on Marina-related matters that were discussed earlier this year.
Referring to a letter read that night by Knabe’s deputy, Steven Napolitano, Ina Barnish, David Barish’s wife, asked, “Supervisor Knabe’s letter to the community stated that ‘it is no longer business as usual in the Marina.’ What does it mean to him, what specific changes will he make to implement this new approach, and when?”
Others did not appear to be as worried or surprised after learning that their elected county representative would not be attending the meeting.
“I’m not particularly upset that Knabe did not come to a community forum in Marina del Rey,” said Dr. David DeLange, the executive director of the Coalition to Save the Marina. “I don’t believe that talking to Knabe will greatly enhance the prospects for future development plans in Marina del Rey.”
Residents in the Marina have long complained that Knabe, who was recently reelected to a fourth term, has neglected their concerns regarding development, what many call a lack of maintenance at certain marinas and recent exorbitant hikes to slip rental rates.
“My feeling after the supervisor informed me that he wasn’t coming to the Marina was surprisingly subdued,” said Jon Nahhas, a Marina boat owner who says that Knabe told him that he would not be attending the community forum at the June 10th Board of Supervisors meeting. “I have become accustomed to county officials telling us many things and not following through.”
Sommers said that if members of the public want to communicate their feelings to the supervisor, there are several venues where residents can be heard.
“There are many avenues to question the supervisors about any issue, including the Board of Supervisors meetings,” said Sommers. “Residents can also use forums such as the Small Craft Harbor Commission to raise their concerns.”
The meeting continued without Knabe, with Kreimann fielding many of the same questions that he and other county officials have been asked in past and recent forums; the slip rate increases, the lack of a master plan for the development of the Marina and the recent spate of cancellations of Small Craft Harbors Commission meetings due to the lack of a quorum, or sufficient commissioners to be able to conduct a meeting.
Russ Lesser, who chairs the commission, has spoken with the county’s legal counsel on this matter and said that new rules regarding the absence of commissioners will be addressed at the July 16th meeting.
The forum has been cancelled this month.
“At the (May) meeting, I asked the county counsel why the commissioners who don’t show up for meetings were given excused absences,” Lesser said. When told that practice was to prevent commissioners from being removed from county commissions, Lesser, a Knabe appointee, directed the county attorney to consider any absence that does not have a justified reason as unexcused.
“If you’re an appointed commissioner, you should show up to the meetings,” said the commission chair.
“I agree with the residents who are angry when meetings are cancelled due to lack of a quorum,” Lesser added. “I’d be angry too.”
If commissioners miss a certain amount of meetings without appropriate justification, they may become eligible for removal from the commission.
Sommers said that Knabe realizes the importance of the Small Craft Harbor Commission to the residents of Marina del Rey, as well as all of the other county commissions.
“(The Small Craft Harbors Commission) is very important in relaying direct resident input to the supervisor, and he knows how important it is to Marina residents,” said Sommers. “That’s why we have made it a point to make sure that our appointee is aware of that.”
Nahhas said that there would be too many things to ask Knabe that couldn’t be done in just one meeting.
“He hasn’t had a public meeting in the Marina for quite some time,” Nahhas pointed out. “I would definitely want to know why he has been so aloof (to) the Marina.”
Sommers said that the supervisor is not out of touch with the complaints that several boat owners and others have lodged with various county agencies and in community forums.
“The supervisor is very much aware of what is happening in Marina del Rey,” he said.
DeLange feels that, in his estimation, Knabe would only react to Marina constituents’ concerns if and when it became politically expedient.
“If he thought that his political interests could be severely impacted financially or image-wise, that could possibly make a difference,” DeLange asserted.
Sommers said that while the supervisor has no immediate plans to visit Marina del Rey soon, Knabe will be making an appearance at some point.
“Don will be out there in the near future when the LCP meetings are held,” he said.
There is a meeting scheduled for Los Angeles or Orange County in October.