One of three Early Action Plan projects to establish a gateway to the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve at Gordon’s Market, 303 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, has been delayed for two weeks after residents and business owners asked for an extension to find alternate parking for customers and employees.

A letter dated September 10th from the California Department of Fish and Game was sent to adjacent property owners and tenants of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, advising that planned improvements were to take place behind Gordon’s Market and the Matilla Commercial Center.

The letter asked that all personal property be removed from the parking area no later than noon Thursday, October 1st, and that work would commence on Monday, October 5th.

The new start date for work is Monday, October 19th, and all items are to be removed by Friday, October 16th, said Mary Small, program manager for the California Coastal Conservancy.

The lot will be closed for two weeks while grading, gravelling and fence repair work is underway, said Small.

Individuals concerned about alternate parking availability contacted Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District, to intercede on the issue. Jim Kennedy, Rosendahl’s field deputy for Westchester, Playa del Rey and Playa Vista, chaired a meeting to discuss the state’s plan on Tuesday, September 22nd at the Westchester Municipal Building Community Room.

Attendees included business owners who could be affected by the lack of parking, local residents, and Rebecca Wayne, the district director for state Assemblyman Ted Lieu, who represents the 53rd Assembly District. A representative for state Senator Jenny Oropeza was unable to attend, and Wayne said she was gathering information for Oropeza’s office as well.

The Early Action Plan — identified as part of the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Plan — is a joint project of the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Department of Fish and Game and the California State Lands Commission, interacting with other agencies.

Gordon’s Market is at the southwestern-most corner of the Ballona Wetlands. The current parking lot is unpaved, generating dust in the summer and impassible mud holes during the rainy season, said Small.

Residents and local business owners who say they would be impacted by the lack of parking voiced their concerns about the issue.

Kennedy said that Rosendahl wanted to make it clear that he didn’t want construction to start until an alternate parking plan was in place so that the impact on businesses would be lessened.

The council office is also asking that after the construction period is over, the regulation of that new parking is delayed to allow for a public process to be held on the new restrictions, he said.

The Early Action Plan itself will have to go before the California Coastal Commission for a coastal development permit, and that might be the time to discuss imposing restrictions on the area, said Kennedy.

Wayne said she wants to relay the concerns to Lieu and Oropeza to work out some sort of compromise if possible. Kennedy said that Fish and Game and Coastal Conservancy representatives were invited to the meeting but were unable to attend.

After reaching out to property owners in Playa del Rey for an offer of alternate parking, the owner of The Del restaurant, which is closed, indicated he doesn’t want to participate, Kennedy said.

Local resident Dan Sharkey said he wants Wayne to know the impact of the closure. He said that there are a lot of vehicles per apartment unit in the area, and there currently isn’t enough parking for residents. It’s not only a convenience issue, but a quality of life issue, he said.

Lance Williams of Playa del Rey Florist said he is greatly impacted by this issue, but other businesses on Culver Boulevard are also impacted. He said that Cantalini’s Salerno Beach restaurant owner Lisa Schwab depends on having valet and employee parking at the Matilla Center. Minotaure restaurant also has the same problem, he said.

“We have a lot more people and a lot less space, and the parking area is used on a daily basis by customers and employees,” he said.

Wayne said the project is expected to move forward and officials will eventually have to find alternative parking. Funds for the project must be used for the project and can’t be utilized for other purposes, Kennedy said.

There is now an ad hoc community design overlay (CDO) committee that the Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council has put together to work on these types of issues, Ballona Institute co-director Marcia Hanscom said.

“We’ve talked about slowing down traffic, putting in diagonal parking on Culver Boulevard, but we need a traffic engineer to study how many diagonal parking spaces could be put in, and a landscape architect,” she said.

Hanscom said that perhaps some of the Coastal Conservancy’s project funding could be diverted to make these types of improvements.

Wayne said the community has to put pressure on all possible places that have private parking to assist in providing alternative parking.

Sharkey said that getting senators and assembly members such as Oropeza and Lieu involved can have a large impact on this type of problem.

An exemption letter from the Coastal Commission stated that a coastal development permit is not necessary for the maintenance work because “the proposed development is an improvement to a structure other than a single family residence or public works facility and is not subject to a permit requirement.”

One speaker said he had communicated with Karen Miner of Fish and Game, who explained this work was strictly a maintenance project to repair fencing that was damaged and to perform the grading and gravelling.

Williams, who has owned the florist shop for the last 13 years, said that prices have gone up with higher taxes in California, which has severely impacted his floral business.

His trashcans are on the parking lot and he has no place to dump the trash if they have to be moved, said Williams.

Williams said he pays for trash pick-up in the lot and gets rid of dumped items like furniture. He added that there are some issues of concern with homeless individuals in the parking lot and abandoned cars, but noted that Playa del Rey is a friendly community.

Steve Matilla said he doesn’t mind the state coming in and making it nicer, but this situation could have a major impact on the community and concerns need to be addressed.

One speaker questioned if the area will remain the same after the maintenance work is done.

Wayne said she will notify Lieu and Oropeza about the community’s recommendations for Fish and Game and the Coastal Conservancy.

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