Let’s reverse course in Marina del Rey to focus on recreation, wildlife and trees

By William Hicks

If “The Happiest Place on Earth” is Disneyland’s slogan, then what should be Marina del Rey’s?

Answer: “What happens in Marina del Rey doesn’t stay in Marina del Rey.”

That’s because Marina del Rey is Los Angeles County land, and a piece of every financial transaction that occurs there goes to the county — every ground lease, property tax, rent check, boat slip fee, vending machine snack and so on.

Since its very beginning, Marina del Rey was sold as a revenue generator for the county. In other words, the cash cow of the county: According to the Department of Beaches and Harbors, total county revenue from the marina has increased from about $45 million in fiscal year 2011-12 to $58.4 million in FY 2013-14.

So who is the county? Some nebulous group of overlords entrenched in downtown L.A.? No.  If you live in L.A. County, then this means that the county is you!

Sure, you voted (or, more likely, didn’t vote) for a member of the Board of Supervisors, the five people who manage the land in L.A. County, but this does not mean that “they” are the county. This simply means that they were hired to manage this land with the best interests of the majority of the residents in mind. At least that’s how a democracy is supposed to work.

Without getting into the democracy vs. republic debate, let’s just say that an elected official should represent at least 50.1% of the population.  After residents vote, they want to believe that they can then go home, pet their cat or take their dog for a walk, eat dinner with their family, watch some boob tube or YouTube, kiss someone good night and drift off to never-never land knowing that they did their civic duty.

Unfortunately, the majority of Marina del Rey’s residents woke up this past January to discover that 650 trees had been cut down in their neighborhood at Oxford Basin Lagoon. They also discovered that the fox whom they had left guarding their henhouse was telling The Argonaut he was surprised that people were protesting at the 11th hour, even though many had only become aware of this nightmare when the chainsaws arrived just before Christmas.

I understand the desire to clean up Oxford Basin Lagoon and open it up to the public, but was this “Sherman’s March to the Sea” (as my colleague called it) really necessary? Couldn’t the engineers who are “restoring it” have at least tried to design around some of what was already there? As one Silver Strand resident recently commented, “On what planet would you chop down every tree to erect a park?”

It feels a little like we’re living in Middle Earth, where Sauron has set his sights on Marina del Rey. Not only is the county deforesting the marina at an alarming rate, but it is also spurring developers to build gargantuan structures comprising hundreds of additional residential units.

The last time that I checked, the residents of Marina del Rey don’t own jetpacks and flying cars, so what effect are these half a dozen or so development projects going to have on the traffic — especially in an emergency situation?

According to a recent traffic study conducted in 2010 by Raju Associates Inc. for the Department of Beaches & Harbors, traffic in Marina del Rey has improved since the last traffic study conducted between 1991 and 1994. I don’t know about everyone else, but if I were L.A. County’s emperor I wouldn’t want Raju as my tailor.

Due to the Playa Vista monstrosity alone, Lincoln Boulevard is quickly becoming a parking lot. Do developers simply keep building until we step into our cars one day and barely move?

My wife came up with a great slogan, “Spend a wonderful day … come to Marina del Rey.” Let’s re-brand Marina del Rey and focus on recreation, wildlife and trees.

William Hicks lives in Marina del Rey.

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