The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has given preliminary approval to a new affordable housing policy for Marina del Rey, but to some affordable housing proponents, the policy falls short of fulfilling low-income housing needs for the community.

The supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday, June 19th, to support the Marina del Rey affordable housing policy, instructing the chief administrative officer to prepare environmental documents with comments from the public and other interested parties.

The policy is aimed at preserving existing affordable housing units in the Marina and creating new affordable units in compliance with the Mello Act, as well as balancing the county’s ability to generate revenues for public programs throughout the county, officials said.

The Mello Act requires that when any low- or moderate-income residential unit is demolished and replaced within the coastal zone, the unit be replaced with another low- or moderate-income unit.

County officials have said the policy is intended to allow developers to determine the number of replacement and new affordable housing units that are to be constructed as part of any new development project within the Marina coastal zone or within three miles of the zone.

Under the policy, any existing affordable housing unit in the Marina that is torn down must be replaced with another affordable unit. Of the additional number of apartment units to be developed at the site, five percent of the units would have to be designated for low-income residents and five percent would need to be provided to moderate-income tenants, according to the policy.

The replacement affordable housing units must be provided on-site or within the coastal zone where feasible, and if not feasible, then within three miles of the coastal zone.

For any new housing projects, or non-replacement projects, the policy says that five percent of the units need to be designated for low-income tenants and five percent for moderate income.

“This is a good compromise,” said David Sommers, spokesman for county Supervisor Don Knabe, of the new housing policy.

“The supervisor feels that this is a good deal because it will ensure that there is affordable housing in the Marina but also that the county will get to use the revenue out of these projects to benefit the entire county.”

But some affordable housing advocates were not pleased with the supervisors’ approval of the policy, saying that it does not help solve the affordable housing shortage in the community.

In supporting the policy, the board voted for the minimum requirement and overlooked the needs of low-income residents in the county for the interests of developers, claimed Helen Garrett, a member of the group People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) and a Marina resident who lives in low-income housing.

“They sold the people of L.A. County out to a special interest group — the developers,” Garrett alleged.

The county has not had an existing policy when it comes to replacement housing projects, Sommers said.

There are several upcoming replacement housing projects in the Marina and the county needs to have a policy in place to address the need for affordable housing, he said.

While the new policy would ensure that low-income housing is provided, the county must also try to maximize its revenue potential in the Marina, Sommers said.

“We have a legal obligation to maximize the revenue that is coming out of the Marina,” he said.

Revenues generated will be invested in public benefit programs and services throughout the county, Sommers said.

The affordable housing policy requirements are expected to be applied to three upcoming Marina redevelopment projects.

Two of the projects — the 479-unit Villa Venetia/Lyon Capital, at the end of Fiji Way, and the 526-unit Neptune Marina/Legacy Partners, on Marquesas Way — are replacement projects. The third project, the 292-unit Waterfront at the site of the Harbor House Restaurant on Admiralty Way, is a new housing project.

Under the housing policy requirements, the three projects would add a total of 136 affordable housing units in the Marina, Sommers said.

The total loss of rent to the county with the affordable units would equal about $50.1 million over a 60-year period, he said.

But given the expected increase in affordable units, some housing advocates claimed the policy still does not provide enough housing to satisfy the needs of low-income people in the Marina.

Chris Gabriele, executive director of People Organized for Westside Renewal, said the group was disappointed to see that the county “settled on so little affordable housing.”

Garrett questioned why the county would support moderate-income subsidies when, according to county figures, there are over 1.1 million residents who qualify for low-income housing and need to be accommodated.

Members of People Organized for Westside Renewal say they wanted to see a policy that required at least ten percent of all units to be designated for low-income tenants. Another possible requirement could have been five percent each for very-low-, low- and moderate-income people, the group said.

Some say they were also disappointed to see that the policy supported has no requirement for very-low-income units.

“The very-low-income people are being cut out,” said Jun Yang, an organizer with People Organized for Westside Renewal.

Don Klein of the Coalition to Save the Marina said the policy should be more comparative to other areas in the county and state, but it does take a step in the right direction.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to take a final vote on the housing policy in about three months.

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