The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission voted to approve hearing rebuttals and continued public testimony on the Woodfin Suites Hotel/Vacation Ownership in Marina del Rey Wednesday, August 12th after a number of speakers opposed to the project raised concerns.

Regional Planning Commission members said there were at least 16 to 18 issues brought up by public speakers at the hearing in Marina del Rey that required a report/rebuttal from county staff. The developer/applicant is also required to clarify issues raised regarding a joint draft environmental impact report (DEIR) that requires recirculation for both the Woodfin and the Neptune Marina projects to address previously unrecognized impacts.

The continued meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, October 14th at the Regional Planning Commission Hearing Room 150, Hall of Records, 320 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

The Woodfin/Neptune Marina documentation is available online at http://planning.lacounty.gov/.

The staff/developer rebuttal report for the October 14th meeting will be available online two Thursdays prior to the meeting on the same county Web site.

The potential impacts related to the proposed City of Los Angeles Dual Force Main alignment through Marina del Rey and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works’ Marina del Rey sewer upgrades associated with the proposed projects were required to be addressed in the DEIR.

The August 12th meeting was focused almost entirely on the Woodfin Hotel component of the project because of the large number of public speakers opposing the project and the time constraint of using the county building.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appoints the five members of the Regional Planning Commission to four-year terms. Members include Esther L. Valadez (Gloria Molina, First District); chair Leslie G. Bellamy (Mark Ridley-Thomas, Second District); Harold V. Helsley ( Zev Yaroslavsky, Third District); vice-chair Wayne Rew (Don Knabe, Fourth District); and Pat Modugno (Mike Antonovich, Fifth District).

WOODFIN SUITES HOTEL AND VACATION OWNERSHIP PROJECT—

This project, proposed for the northeast corner of Via Marina and Tahiti Way (Parcel 9U), and zoned in the Playa del Rey Zoned District, requires a tentative tract map to create 136 timeshare units on 2.06 gross acres.

Other requirements include: a coastal development permit to authorize construction of a 19-story, 288-room hotel and timeshare resort, and the construction of a new parking structure to service the hotel/timeshare resort;

A conditional use permit to authorize the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption, the installation of signs and the construction and maintenance of an emergency rooftop heliport;

A parking permit to authorize reduced on-site parking via a shared parking arrangement and a valet parking program that will utilize tandem parking spaces;

A variance to authorize a reduction of the required ten-foot setback from the pedestrian promenade; and

A coastal development permit to authorize construction and maintenance of a public wetland and upland park on the southwest portion of Parcel 9U.

A senior biologist consulting for the developer presented a report on the wetland area on the proposed Woodfin parcel, saying that the area had been degraded after a hotel was planned in the 1980s and partial work had started and was then stopped.

Restoration of the wetland to provide a fully functional tidal salt marsh habitat for birds, flora and fauna would be feasible, said the biologist.

PUBLIC COMMENT—

During public comment, opposition to the project spanned various categories.

General concerns and quality of life: important to keep open land for recreation, not private development; piece-mealing of projects rather than developing the Marina as one project; blocks scenic views of mountains; keeps lower income families from enjoying the recreational and beach amenities by having insufficient parking or expensive parking; general high prices; completely blocks the wind pattern for boaters in the Marina; does not provide for affordable housing, impacts traffic and creates more congestion; parking lots not underutilized but underserved; ruins the beauty of the Marina with a project not suited for that area; blocks sunshine for condo owners living across the street from the proposed hotel; and lowers property values of those condos.

David Barish, co-founder of the group We ARE Marina del Rey, alleged that the county is piece-mealing projects in violation of state law, the California Coastal Act and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), and that since the county is the co-applicant on every development it is required to follow CEQA.

He said that the county should prepare for the whole Marina to be redeveloped to determine the entire cumulative impact.

Environmental impact: cumulative impacts of noise from construction, air quality, traffic from this and other projects; hotel and timeshare will overuse water; decline in landfill capacity; wastewater, solid waste disposal capacity only effective until 2017; suggestion for a geological survey for the size of the hotel compared to the small acreage on which it would stand; safety concerns about the heliport on the hotel rooftop; new maps from State of California regarding the high risk of liquefaction in the area; global warming/climate change.

On the subject of wastewater and solid waste disposal, resident Nancy Vernon Marino claimed she had found a math error in the recirculated DEIR of over seven million, 624,000 gallons of wastewater not accounted for, and questioned if this type of error was found for one project, how many of the other projects might have similar errors.

She said that overflow from the Hyperion Treatment Plant in El Segundo would go into the ocean and back to the main channel, winding up in people’s backyards.

WETLAND AREA ON

PARCEL —

David DeLange, executive director of the Coalition to Save the Marina, said that the description of the wetland area on the hotel property is referred to as degraded and that it would be relocated.

“You can’t relocate a wetland, it’s not like moving a car or a body to another location,” said DeLange.

“It means you’ve destroyed what’s already there and you resurrect it or recreate it in another spot, but that’s illegal because to build the hotel, you have to destroy the wetland,” he said.

Robert van de Hoek, co-director of the Ballona Institute, said there are not just coastal wetlands, there are freshwater and alkali coastal wetlands, currently delineated by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

He said that much of Marina del Rey was freshwater wetland and alkali, not all tideland, and that the term “degraded” was used by developers and their scientists to dismiss the area.

“The whole ecosystem needs to be thought of in terms of the rest of the Ballona Wetlands and all taken collectively, and the California Coastal Commission recognizes the importance of the freshwater marsh,” said van de Hoek.

TIMESHARE ASPECT OF WOODFIN — Jack Ainsworth, a deputy director of the California Coastal Commission, stated in an e-mail that timeshares or hotel condominiums would require a Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment, and that if the county doesn’t process such an amendment, it would be a basis to appeal a coastal development permit for such a development.

DeLange also addressed the timeshare aspect, and referred to that statement from the Coastal Commission, and said that movement of units between parcels is also not allowed in the LCP, as is the conversion of parking lots for residential purposes.

Rachel Torres, a research analyst for Unite Here! Local 11, said the union represents over 20,000 hotel service workers, and that the local planners must provide an in-depth analysis for demand and supply of such projects.

Torres alleged that the Woodfin ownership is “deeply controversial and litigious, with a history of developing illegal timeshares on coastal land.”

“In 2008, the California Coastal Commission expressed strong concerns about a proposal by Woodfin Hotel Suites for development in the Port of San Diego to include timeshares as part of a 140-room, full-service hotel on public tidelands,” Torres continued. “In the face of likely rejection of the plan amendment, the port withdrew the application.

“The Woodfin company is currently in violation of city and municipal law in Emeryville, California and is being sued by employees in a California court for refusal to comply with the city living wage ordinance, something that we hold dear in Los Angeles,” she alleged.

“The hotel is in violation of its conditional operating permit until it pays over $300,000, including back wages, fees and fines owed to the city under this ordinance,” Torres alleged. “For this and other reasons, we respectfully request that the Regional Planning Commission deny the developers’ application for approval as it’s currently designed until these issues are resolved.”

Tim Rosales, spokesperson for the Woodfin Suites Hotels, told The Argonaut that “unfortunately misinformation has been put out by Unite Here! Local 11 regarding our Emeryville property and employees.

“Woodfin enjoys a great relationship with both the city of Emeryville, California, the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce, our employees and the community as a whole. “Last year, the Alameda Superior Court found in favor of Woodfin regarding a lawsuit filed by the city of Emeryville. Currently, the case is under appeal.”

Resident Carla Andrus told the Regional Planning Commission that it had been “saddled” with the problem that has consisted of a long road for many in the community who have continued to attend all of the meetings on development.

She said the Marina del Rey Design Control Board no longer has the power to scale back large projects that didn’t provide enough parking, and that the issue was now on the plate of the commission.

Andrus asked that the commission members listen to the community and told them that the issue was now up to them.

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