Redevelopment plans would increase public recreational access to Marina del Rey but also displace seabirds and forever alter a unique harbor landscape

By Pat Reynolds

Mariners Village’s idyllic coastline could be in for some big changes if redevelopment plans go forward Photo by Pat Reynolds

Mariners Village’s idyllic coastline could be in for some big changes if redevelopment plans go forward
Photo by Pat Reynolds

When I take friends out sailing, on our way out to the ocean we inevitably pass a beautiful little stretch of real estate on the north side of the main channel that consistently begs the question: “What’s that place?”

“It’s Mariners Village,” I reply. “An apartment complex.”

“Nice,” they always say.

“It is,” I confirm.

Mariners Village is nice. It’s 23 acres of beautifully landscaped property complete with old trees and a private waterfront view that is arguably the best Marina del Rey has to offer. Mariners Village’s website, in fact, calls the grounds “the pinnacle of luxury living.”

The site also states: “Here, amid lush landscaping and serene seascapes, residents will find a pleasing assortment of apartment homes nestled in a quaint village setting complete with an onsite market and deli, dry cleaners and salon.”

With this picture painted, it’s no wonder residents are making noise about saying “no” to redevelopment plans that would bring about a complete reconfiguring of the entire area. The proposed revamping isn’t some simple tweaking and restructuring of an existing space — this is extensive, profound change that would open up the wooded picturesque private complex to the public. New retail establishments, parkland and 92 new boat slips (where as of now there aren’t any) are all part of the concept.

What is currently an insulated peaceful little campus may soon become a destination zone for the greater Los Angeles public who want to enjoy what the “new” Marina del Rey has to offer.

Obviously, residents at Mariners Village don’t love the idea. Of course they have personal motivations, but many contend leaving the plot alone is best for the community’s future — that saving old-growth trees (nesting places for seabirds) from being cut down to make way for the changes and preserving natural, unobstructed views from the waterside are all worthy reasons for leaving Mariners Village as is.

“It’s the only beautiful place in the marina that you can actually boat by,” says an active organizer for the save Mariners Village campaign who asked not to be identified because he/she still lives there. “[Marina del Rey] is pretty much like a lake, and the reason that people like lakes is because of the view that they’re looking at from the lake. That perspective will be lost if they put a marina out there.”

Interestingly, there hasn’t been a great amount of talk among boaters about the prospect of a 92-slip marina being built in the main channel. In addition to the berths, allotments for 20 non-motorized kayaks or paddle boards and 24 personal watercrafts are planned, as well as a 110-foot public transient dock. Instead, so far, it’s the residents of the complex who have tried to make the case that it’s a bad idea for the boating community, as well as themselves. In a flyer sent around, they say that boaters will be “squeezed out of the channel” and that the build, by virtue of how far it is supposed to encroach, will create hazards for kayakers, rowers and paddleboarders as well as boaters.

Although the plan includes a public dock, water taxi area and an increased opportunity for access to the water, WeareMdR.org believes the idea is bad for the area. This active watchdog organization that opposes overdevelopment in Marina del Rey also seeks to ensure public access, so it may be surprising to some that they don’t support the proposed change. Nancy Marino, who heads the group, believes more private development is not what this area needs and said that concern outweighs the proposed increase in slips and recreational access.

“Prevent private development from encroaching into MdR’s main channel,” she said. “The public waterway is heavily utilized for recreational activities, and such uses are increasing.  The project site is a prime kayaking & paddleboarding area.  Public uses and safety have a clear priority here.”

This particular development idea is intriguing in that it has appeal for certain groups while evoking disdain in others, and at times does both simultaneously. Longtime development skeptic and Boat Owners Association President Andy Bessette applauds the notion of adding more slips in Marina del Rey but recoils at the retail element.

“We know that they’re trying to create a package that’s appealing and they can get passed,” said Bessette. “There is no black and white, but any effort we make to restore the number of boat slips in the marina is a good effort.”

But when the retail next to the water gets brought up, Bessette gets ruffled.

“That’s what’s wrong with all of it,” he said. “However they disguise it, it’s really just a money-maker for them.”

The loss of what people are calling the “urban forest” of Mariners Village also doesn’t sit well with Bessette or Marino.

“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Renovate, not redevelop, Mariners Village and preserve and protect the amazing urban forest that is even more relevant today in our rapidly urbanizing marina,” Marino said.

For many, the redevelopment proposal begs larger questions than what’s aimed at this particular parcel.

Fear of overdevelopment and increasing density looms large as areas such as Fisherman’s Village are slated for major retail growth as part of L.A. County’s future “visioning” process for the marina.

While this new Mariners Village would bring more boat slips, retail destinations and public access, it definitely carries with it a substantial cost that not everyone is comfortable with.

You don’t have to wait long to let the decision makers know what you think. On Tuesday, the county is taking public comment during a meeting that will help determine the scope of an environmental study required before moving ahead with the project.

Come early — I’d bet on a full room.

The Mariners Village renovation project scoping meeting takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the Burton Chase Park Community Room, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey. The Los Angeles County Dept. of Regional Planning is also accepting written comments through Sept. 26 via marinaplanner@planning.lacounty.gov.

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