County leaders look to create more affordable housing in Marina del Rey

By Gary Walker

Eight years after drafting a blueprint for creating more affordable housing in Marina del Rey, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has ordered a top-to-bottom review of the policy to see if they can do better.

Last month Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and recently termed-out Supervisor Don Knabe directed county staffers across several departments to examine the effectiveness of the marina’s low- to moderate- income housing program.

“The county’s 2008 Marina del Rey affordable housing policy was a good start in the right direction. But given the ever-increasing affordable housing crisis, we need to explore the possibility that some small changes to the policy could produce more affordable units,” Kuehl told The Argonaut.

County planners are still working on an up-to-date accounting of officially designated affordable housing in the marina, but preliminary figures suggest there isn’t much of it.

Of 6,037 total apartments, only 132 units — just 2.2% — are considered affordable rental housing, according to county planning documents.

That number will increase to 260 units after construction of the Neptune Marina Apartments and AMLI Residential Apartments is completed, said L.A. County Dept. of Beaches and Harbors Planning Chief Michael Trip.

The new Neptune Marina is expected to produce 526 new apartments in about 18 months, with 81 of those units set aside as affordable housing under the county’s existing policies. It replaces a 1960s complex of 136 townhome units that, until their demolition in September, represented some of the cheapest housing along the harbor.

Currently the 544-unit Shores apartments on Via Marina include 54 affordable units — the most of any building in the marina, according to county documents. In 2013, Shores replaced the former Del Rey Shores, which at the time of demolition offered about 200 more modestly priced market-rate units.

Critics of the marina’s ongoing redevelopment have complained that new construction replacing older market-rate housing increases residential density but decreases overall affordability for the middle class.

The marina’s current affordable housing policy calls for the replacement of demolished residential units that had been occupied by low- or moderate-income tenants.

County officials adopted the marina’s current affordable housing policies after the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles warned in 2006 that noncompliance with state protections for moderate- and low-income coastal housing exposed the county to potential lawsuits.

“Our role was helping to write the new policy so that it would be in compliance with state law,” said Susanne Browne, a Legal Aid Foundation attorney involved in the settlement agreement.  “One of the provisions that we had included is the 15% inclusionary housing policy of 5% very low, 5% low and 5% moderate-income units.”

Last month the Board of Supervisors specifically directed staff to consider new funding mechanisms to pay for construction of more affordable housing.

“For example, among the things we asked our departments to review is whether using low-income housing tax credits instead of rent credits could fund additional affordable units,” said Kuehl, whose district includes areas that abut the marina but are governed by the city of Los Angeles.

County officials are now working to assemble current demographic data on the marina’s low-income renters. That report is expected to come out in the spring.

“We’re just beginning the process. We’ll be looking at a lot of things and consulting with several departments and other jurisdictions within Los Angeles County,” Tripp said.

The community group People Organized for Westside Renewal weighed in on the marina’s 2008 affordable housing policy and are already in contact with Kuehl about the current effort, said director and lead organizer Bill Przylucki.

“It’s a good time to go back and evaluate what works well and what doesn’t,” he said.