The kings and queens on the Board of Supervisors apparently have little time for the serfs who sustain them

By William Hicks

Pyramid or hotel, the weight that Marina del Rey residents are being asked to pull is for the benefit of someone else Illustration by William Hicks

Pyramid or hotel, the weight that Marina del Rey residents are being asked to pull is for the benefit of someone else
Illustration by William Hicks

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” Living in Marina del Rey: perfect weather, short walks to the beach and getting to know our neighbors; the constant threat of deforestation, rampant overdevelopment and taxation without representation.

On Oct. 6, some locals took the day off and headed downtown to have their voices heard before the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, appealing a recent decision to build yet another hotel complex in Marina del Rey — this time in a residential area and on the last undeveloped marshland in the marina (Via Marina and Tahiti Way).

They sure didn’t feel heard.

I’m not trying to incite another French Revolution, but I do wish that elected officials would start paying attention to their constituents.

I am the first person to encourage people to vote, write letters to the editor, sign petitions and show up at meetings. But when people do all these things and still feel ignored, the system of public participation breaks down and people start to get angry.

“We look to our elected and appointed officials to keep overdevelopment in check,” Silver Strand Marina Homeowners Association board member Gary Garland said during the meeting, adding concerns about traffic, the environment and public safety.

Even Gary’s 13-year-old son Jackson appealed to the board: “Someday I hope to be in a position of power to do the right thing, like you are. I urge you to please protect this land for future generations.”

Who wouldn’t be moved by that?

The Board of Supervisors, apparently. They unanimously voted to move ahead with the hotel.

My history buff brother tells me it was French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau who created the phrase “Let them eat cake” commonly misattributed to Marie Antoinette; but I don’t misquote Supervisor Don Knabe, who did in fact say “we’re the boss” when speaking of a county lessee’s proposal to deforest the 23 acres of Mariners Village for redevelopment.

I would say the residents of L.A. County who pay Knabe’s salary are his boss, and I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board: You are not kings and queens. You are public servants, and the majority of the public in Marina del Rey does not want a hotel in a residential district; the public wants and needs a public park and a marsh.

OK, so a park and marsh won’t bring in the millions of dollars in revenue that a hotel would, but tourists aren’t the public.

We all like revenue, but if we based every decision on money there would be even worse traffic and no public parks. It’s not the end-all, be-all. Quality of life is, and this improves when there are more parks and less traffic.

Traffic shouldn’t be allowed to get any worse in L.A., which means renovations only and no new developments. There. I said it.

What Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during the meeting was to call many of those who spoke out against the hotel “selfish and rude.”

I think it’s selfish and rude to waste people’s time with a charade when you clearly had no real intention of changing your position and to sacrifice marina residents’ quality of life to generate more revenue for pet projects.

As attendee Jessica Kurland put it in a letter to Kuehl and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, “public input was simply a formality, and the board’s minds were already made up.”

It’s not a revolution that we need; it’s an evolution from selfishness to respect and cooperation.

Marcia Hanscom of the Ballona Institute, the one who filed the appeal, was given only two minutes to speak.

“I think that part of the breakdown in everything you talked about here is because we are so disconnected with nature, with the planet that sustains us,” she said. “This effort [is] to protect every bit of wild nature we have and make it accessible to the public.”

Who would disagree with that? Again, the Board of Supervisors.

Unless politicians start listening to the people, the steering wheels we grip in our steel and plastic boxes might as well be a rope in the time of the Egyptian pharaohs.

Pyramid or hotel, it’s being built for somebody else at our expense.