Supervisor Don Knabe believes Marina del Rey is returning to its earlier status as “the crown jewel of Los Angeles County.”

Knabe’s comments came as he addressed members of the Westchester/LAX-Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce Marina Affairs Committee at a morning meeting at Tony P’s Grill in the Marina.

Knabe admitted that during the past years the Marina “jewel” had become a bit tarnished as progress in the county’s redevelopment plans dragged on.

The supervisor said he was especially upset that while some Marina projects seemed to languish, areas outside and adjacent to the Marina were being redeveloped at a brisk pace.

But during the past year the Marina has had some important projects finished and near completion that will improve the Marina and get county refurbishment plans back on schedule, Knabe said.

The supervisor praised The Villa apartment complex, completed on Bora Bora Way, as an example of improvement in the Marina.

He pointed to the Waterside Marina Center, which he said was “completed very quickly,” drawing groans from many in the audience who have been critical of the disruption to Marina residents and businesses while the project seemed to drag on.

Knabe said the new Ralphs Food Faire will be “finished in early March or April.”

FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE —Knabe noted that the County Small Craft Harbor Commission the previous day had supported a process that will lead to redevelopment of Fisherman’s Village.

Included in the proposal is the annexation of two parcels into Fisherman’s Village, giving Fisherman’s Village additional space for redevelopment.

Knabe and his fellow supervisors would approve the concept of the Fisherman’s Village annexation the following Tuesday, allowing the county and the developer to move forward with re- development negotiations on that Fiji Way project.

MOTHERS BEACH — Various plans have been revealed for redevelopment of the Marina Beach area — popularly called Mothers Beach by locals.

But Knabe emphasized that “development of that beach is in its infancy stage.”

“It is my intention to have public meetings” on county plans to redevelop Mothers Beach before any project there is approved, Knabe emphasized.

One such public meeting will be held in the latter part of January.

“We will not be moving forward without your public input,” Knabe assured the chamber members.

Among the proposals for redeveloping the Mothers Beach area are new facilities on the eastern portion of the beach, adjacent to Palawan Way, for small boats and kayaks.

County staff has said in the past that the county’s goal is to get increased public use of the beach area.

More controversial at the beach project are plans for a new Marriott Residence Inn and the redevelopment of the parking area now serving the Cheesecake Factory restaurant, which has drawn criticism from the lessee of the parcel, which includes the Foghorn Harbor Inn.

BURTON CHACE PARK — The county has plans to expand Burton Chace Park on Mindanao Way in the Marina by reclaiming two parcels that the county had earlier leased out.

Knabe noted that two days before his chamber address the Board of Supervisors had approved “exercising our option” to purchase the two parcels adjacent to the park and annex those parcels into the park.

“If it is a purchase, it is going to have to come back to the Board of Supervisors” for approval, giving the public an opportunity to comment on the proposal, Knabe said.

Key to the plan is the relocation of the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club.

“We are in serious negotiations with Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club,” Knabe said.

“The plans are nowhere near final,” the supervisor emphasized.”

“The public will definitely have a say on that plan,” Knabe added. “We will be asking for input.”

Knabe said one of the reasons the county wants to expand Burton Chace Park is that the park receives so much public use.

“That Community Center is really utilized,” Knabe said, adding that the Marina director, Stan Wisniewski, has reported that the center — the Burton Chace Park Community Center — has “a zero vacancy rate.”

Aware of rumors swirling around the Marina that the county wants to get rid of the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, Knabe spent time rejecting such talk.

“Hopefully, we will all be one happy family,” he said. “The Santa Monica-Windjammers Yacht Club will be relocated.”

He tried to assure the chamber members that “there is both an internal and external process as we look to expand the park,” but the county wants to keep the yacht club in the Marina, Knabe emphasized.

LCP REVIEW — The California Coastal Commission is charged with reviewing local coastal plans (LCPs) on a periodic basis.

After criticism from Marina users that the coastal commission had not renewed the Marina del Rey LCP as required by the State Coastal Act, the coastal commission began a Marina LCP review process.

Knabe reported that in June the coastal commission presented the county “with a lengthy report” regarding the Marina LCP and the county’s response over the years to the existing certified LCP.

“Our staff is reviewing” the report, Knabe said. “I would imagine the legal aspect of that will come back to the coastal commission when the commission meets in San Pedro” — which could be in April, Knabe said.

HOMELAND SECURITY — On the issue of whether the county has properly prepared for response to a national emergency such as Hurricane Katrina, Knabe tried to assure the chamber members that the county has emergency preparation plans in place.

Knabe plans to host a series of meetings with the public on preparedness and homeland security.

The supervisor suggested that local officials in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina were not prepared for such a disaster.

“The good news here is that we are prepared,” Knabe emphasized.

The bad news is that we continue to have fires, floods and mud slides, he added.

“But we know what to do,” he said.

He called local fire departments ready for such emergencies.

“A good example was that train wreck at Costco in Glendale,” Knabe said, where the supervisor said various agencies responded quickly and with skill.

“We train, we train and we train,” he said. “We can’t wait for a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) to respond.

“You can’t have homeland security if your home town isn’t prepared.”

The supervisor said that locally the Office of Preparedness “is quick to be up and running” when such emergencies occur.

As for terrorists and others causing trouble, Knabe admitted, “There are a ton of people who don’t like us and who want to hurt us.”

But the supervisor feels confident that the county district attorney and the County Sheriff’s Department “are working together” to minimize dangers from such people.

STATE OF ECONOMY — Knabe sees “steady and positive growth” in California.

The economy next year will grow three and a half percent in the state, he predicted.

“Obviously, energy prices have some impact,” he added.

But Knabe is encouraged with the drop of the consumer price index (CPI), which he said “went down more significantly” than anytime in the past 60 years.

“If interest rates nudge up,” the CPI could rise “slightly,” he said.

Knabe points to “most economists,” who say the housing bubble — a collapse of housing prices — “will not happen here.”

“The good news, they continue to say, is that here in California there are good-paying jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate continues to fall. Businesses are hiring again. Taxable sales are up.

“In Los Angeles County, our county continues to be strong.

“Our gross assessment is $856 billion, just in L.A. County.

“Construction permits continue to grow. We had 35,000 new jobs in the county.”

Knabe points to the expected population growth in the state.

“California will grow by 400,00 to 500,000 by 2010. We expect to have a strong economic base here in California,” he said.

But Knabe noted the exit of Nissan from the South Bay area to Tennessee, which will cost the South Bay 2,500 jobs.

The supervisor said the county faces severe competition from areas of the country with lower costs.

He noted one Nissan owner “who sold his house here, moved to Tennessee, bought a much larger house and still had money left over to put in the bank.”

BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS — Knabe noted that one of the most severe problems government faces is traffic.

“The transportation infrastructure is a mess,” Knabe admitted. “When a government is short on dollars, the first thing they do is push infrastructure dollars to the back.”

“From a county budget standpoint, we have had some difficult service cuts over the last three years,” Knabe said.

But two factors have improved this position, he said.

The county’s workers’ compensation costs have decreased and the passage by county voters of Proposition 1A has had “an immediate impact,” he said.

The county has been able to receive $100 million that can be used for county services, such as improving libraries.

“Forty million dollars went to the Sheriff’s Department — $30 million for 4,500 jail beds so we can end these early jail releases, and $5 million went to the district attorney to hire more prosecutors,” Knabe said.

The Board of Supervisors still has unfunded liabilities to consider, such as pension funds, Knabe said.

NFL TEAM — Knabe said local officials are still “working hard” to get a National Football League team for Los Angeles.

“We expect a response at a March meeting” of NFL officials and owners, Knabe said. “They prefer to have two teams in Los Angeles. It has been 13 years without an NFL team” in Los Angeles.

LAX AGREEMENT — Knabe says he is “cautiously optimistic” about a recent agreement that could end a series of lawsuits — including one by the county — against an expansion plan of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

“I am on my third mayor” dealing with proposed expansion at LAX, Knabe laughed.

“There has been a lot of talk and we have reached” a tentative agreement, the supervisor said.

But he was openly concerned about the agreement being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“At the end of the day, the FAA can do whatever it wants to do,” Knabe warned.

He noted the two letters that FAA officials sent last week, saying there were several items in the so-called agreement of parties over the LAX expansion that FAA officials “want to look at.”

“Everyone wants to be part of the agreement,” Knabe said, adding that the agreement under discussion was “the first time we were brought to the table.”

“We have said many times, ‘Either bring us to the table or we are going to be your worst enemy.’ This is the first group that has brought us to the table.”

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