The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted April 26 to refer the proposed Woodfin Hotel project in Marina del Rey to the Department of Regional Planning for further review and public input following recent project revisions.

The supervisors additionally voted to approve four other projects in Marina del Rey, including the Neptune Marina apartments; a 1.46-acre public wetland park; the Oceana senior housing facility; and the Holiday-Panay Way marine commercial facility.

The proposed Woodfin Hotel project has been redesigned from a 19-story, 225-foot-high hotel to two five-story wings below 70 feet in height, and a proposed vacation timeshare element has also been eliminated, county officials said.

A project representative said the applicant is in agreement to return the revised project to the Regional Planning Commission for more public meetings.

The revision, which was presented days prior to the scheduled supervisors’ hearing, was harshly criticized by project opponents who argued that it became an entirely new project and had not been publicly heard.

After the Regional Planning Commission approved the Woodfin project on March 10, 2010, an appeal was filed on March 22, 2010 by the co-directors of the group We ARE Marina del Rey, David Barish and Nancy Vernon Marino.

In an April 25 letter to the supervisors, Barish stated, “We ARE Marina del Rey, having filed an appeal on two other projects as well, urges (the board) to remand all projects back to the Regional Planning Commission or uphold our appeals and deny all projects, so that a more reasonable plan can be considered that meets the needs of the residents and recreational users of the Marina and that are consistent with the certified Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program, California Coastal Act and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).

Barish alleged that because the supervisors heard the five Marina projects prior to a California Coastal Commission ruling on the Local Coastal Program (LCP) amendment, the county continues to “piece-meal” the Marina redevelopment project.

“Should any of the projects be approved, We ARE Marina del Rey reserves the right to take appropriate legal action,” he said.

At the meeting, Barish asked the supervisors to reject all five projects in order to come back with plans that his group claims are more appropriate for the Marina in terms of residential and recreational users and coastal zone public access.

In addition to the Woodfin Suite Hotel and Timeshare Resort, the projects Barish referred to are the Neptune Marina apartments on Parcels 10 and FF; a 1.46-acre public wetland park on the southerly portion of Parcel 9U; the Oceana senior facility on Parcel OT; and the Holiday-Panay Way marine commercial facility on Parcel 21.

“We are asking the board to keep public, Marina parcels currently used for public access/recreation (Parcels OT and FF), to not build a hotel on wetlands (Parcel 9U) and to scale back the residential/commercial projects (Parcels OT, 21 and 10R) so that they are consistent with existing planning laws and the Coastal Act and less impactful on the residents and recreational users of the Marina,” stated Barish.

The group’s appeal claimed that the project is inconsistent with the Marina del Rey LCP and the Coastal Act and warrants an appeal hearing. Reference is made to the substantial oral and written testimony previously submitted on the record opposing this project and is incorporated herein. “Additionally, the project hearings held by the Regional Planning Commission were in violation of the Brown Act,” the appeal alleged.

The appeal continues, “The project is inconsistent with, among other sections, the Public Access, Recreation, Marine Environment and Land Resources of the Coastal Act. The project’s land use, timeshare component, building height, view corridor, and on-site parking requirements, among other things, are inconsistent with the Marina LCP.

“The project was heard prematurely and was piecemealed in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. The project’s environmental impact report (EIR) failed to sufficiently analyze impacts and also must be recirculated,” the group alleged.

Some public speakers admonished the supervisors for their quick approval of projects in minutes while opponents had spent lengthy periods of time to make the supervisors and the public aware of what they called negative impacts on Marina residents and local boaters.

Various speakers supported the affordable housing component that would be offered at the Neptune Marina project.

Regarding the wetland near the proposed Woodfin Hotel, one speaker said that a “wetland is not a park, it’s a swamp,” and there are health and safety issues associated with having a swamp near a hotel.

Tim Riley, representing the Marina del Rey Lessees Association, said he believed that the use of underutilized parking as identified by a county parking study would benefit users of the Marina, as would transient docks being created.

The details about the revised hotel concept were sent out by email from Gin Wong Associates, Planning and Architecture. The revised project would include two hotel wings – one to the south facing the park and one to the north facing the housing development – it and would be five stories high with a total of 288 units. Neither wing will be greater than 70 feet in height. All are single rooms with two, two-room suites on the second through the fifth floors.

The five floors would include a mix of king, double/double, and two king-suite A type rooms on each floor. The total number of suites is 16 and the remainder is single rooms.

A one-level parking area with an entrance off of Via Marina through a drop-off in the front driveway provides approximately 214 stalls. The parking area also includes mechanical space, an area for back-of-the-house, and a small machine room.

The ground floor includes a bistro restaurant facing the Marina; a dining deck facing the Marina bar; meeting rooms which can be converted to a larger space; a food prep area; check-in for the hotel; administration area; lobby; elevator lobby for each wing; a pool deck adjacent to a gym; service and truck delivery to the hotel; front door automobile entry/drop-off; and a small sundry shop.

At an August 12, 2009 Regional Planning Commission meeting, the commission had voted to approve hearing rebuttals and continued public testimony on the Woodfin Suites Hotel/Vacation Ownership after a number of speakers opposed to the project raised numerous concerns. The commission said there were at least 16 to 18 issues brought up by public speakers at the Marina del Rey hearing that required a report/rebuttal from county staff.

The developer/applicant was also required to clarify issues raised regarding a joint draft environmental impact report (DEIR) that required recirculation for both the Woodfin and Neptune Marina projects to address previously unrecognized impacts. That August 12, 2009 meeting was focused almost entirely on the Woodfin project because of the large number of speakers opposing the project and the time constraint of using the county building.

Concerns about the project included the size of the building; general concerns about keeping open land for recreation – one of the issues is the 40-foot encroachment on a nearby wetland that community members said should be used as a park for the public rather than private enrichment for a hotel developer; blocking scenic mountain views; affecting wind patterns for boaters; insufficient or expensive parking; keeping lower income families from enjoying the Marina; and the general loss of quality of life, and the effect of having a timeshare on public land, as stated by the California Coastal Commission in its documentation.

Other concerns concentrated on the environment, such as cumulative impacts from construction noise, air quality, traffic, overuse of water by the hotel and timeshare, wastewater, solid waste disposal capacity only being effective until 2017 and the attempted “relocation” of a wetland.

At the August meeting, David DeLange of the Coalition to Save the Marina claimed, “You can’t relocate a wetland, it’s not like moving a car or a body to another location. 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.”

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