The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a three-step “roadmap” process Tuesday, September 1st committing the county to a specific time to respond to the California Coastal Commission regarding the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) Periodic Review.
The process treats all Phase II development needing an LCP amendment into a single compound amendment, and calls for the county to develop a vision of future Marina redevelopment within five years, focusing on leaseholds terminating in 15 to 20 years.
The response by county officials to the LCP Periodic Review would be transmitted to the Coastal Commission by April 10th, 2010. The Coastal Commission had transmitted its periodic review to the county on April 31st.
The bundling together of six projects requiring amendments into one package would include a cumulative impact assessment of all development currently proposed in Marina del Rey and would be forwarded to the Coastal Commission, according to county documentation.
At issue are six pending “pipeline” projects that are being treated as one project requiring an amendment, with some opponents saying that there are more than six because while some share an environmental impact report (EIR), they are separate projects.
The fact that the Coastal Commission did not agendize the roadmap process for its June meeting, didn’t vote on it, concurred on it without a vote and that it was presented by commission deputy director Jack Ainsworth without a written report to the Coastal Commission, has opponents alleging that approval of the roadmap process by the Board of Supervisors is a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Coastal Act.
The six projects listed by the county are:
Parcels 52/GG — 345-space dry stack boat storage building and outdoor mast-up storage spaces at Fiji Way;
Parcels 49/77 – commercial and visitor-serving (including restaurants) or mixed-use with associated parking, replacement boating/launch facilities, public parking, option to build residential units, and/or new administration building for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors at Admiralty Way, bordering Fiji and Mindanao Ways;
Parcels 9U/10/FF — a 19-story hotel/timeshare with a wetland park on the southern half of the parcel; and 526 apartment units and anchorage replacement, plus public parking relocation (FF conversion contemplated in 1996 LCP relocation of open space to Parcel 9 for wetland park) at Admiralty and Marquesas Ways;
Parcels 33/NR — mixed-use project (The Waterfront) with apartments, restaurants and retail. Public parking will be replaced and residential component supports commercial use during non-visitor periods at Admiralty Way (formerly Harbor House/Edie’s Diner);
Parcel OT — 114-unit senior retirement facility with on-site replacement public parking spaces (conversion and replacement of public parking for senior use contemplated in 1996 LCP) at Washington Boulevard near Palawan Way;
Parcel IR — 147-room Marriott Residence Inn, with replacement of public parking both on and off-site at Mothers Beach.
LETTER TO CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION —
In a May 28th letter to Peter Douglas, executive director of the Coastal Commission, Beaches and Harbors Director Santos Kreimann, said several meetings had taken place between the county and the commission regarding the roadmap process, and that based on those discussions, the county developed the roadmap process.
Kreimann said that the Coastal Commission’s recommendation of an “overhaul” of the LCP can’t be funded due to staffing and budget constraints, the six pipeline projects are already making their way through the entitlement process, and that “we agree that a single, aggregate amendment to the LCP could resolve any issues that these pipeline projects pose relative to the current LCP.”
“The county sees many opportunities in this three-step approach,” Kreimann said. “The county realizes that it is entitled to present amendments one at a time, up to three per year.”
LETTER TO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS —
In a joint August 3rd letter regarding the roadmap process to the Board of Supervisors, Jon Sanabria, acting director of the county Department of Regional Planning, and Kreimann stated, “Because we heard from both California coastal commissioners and the executive director that they would not approve these project amendments on a project-by-project basis, we indicated we would recommend to our Board of Supervisors for consideration the coastal staff’s recommended three-prong roadmap for development of the county’s periodic review response and accomplishment of project LCP amendments.”
CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION DEPUTY DIRECTOR’S REPORT AT JUNE MEETING —
Jack Ainsworth said, “So the LCP amendments required for these [six pipeline] projects generally do not represent a wholesale change in the land-use entitlements for total development potential allocated in the LCP.
“Some of the amendments required for these projects are relatively minor while others involve more significant amendments that should be comprehensibly addressed and the cumulative individual impacts associated with these projects should be addressed comprehensively.
“In addition, the county has agreed to address several overarching policy issues that were addressed in the periodic review. These issues relate to public parking throughout the Marina, environmentally sensitive resources and habitats — primarily related to bird-nesting habitat, waterside development and recreational boating, advancement of visitor-serving uses of public open space, and enhancement of public walkways and public access throughout the Marina,” Ainsworth continued.
“I want to mention that it’s really important to keep in mind that the commission can not require a local government to revise or otherwise restudy its LCP after certification.
“Again, as we did in Channel Islands harbor, we attempted here to work in partnership with the county to achieve the goal of updating the LCP given the fiscal and budget realities that both LA County and we are facing. Staff would like to hear feedback the commission might have with regard to the suggested strategy to these pipeline projects. We really need to know if we are generally on the right track here or should be advising the county to take another approach,” Ainsworth said.
Douglas responded, “We have been having these discussions with the county to try and agree on an approach that works, both for the county, for us and for the lessees, and members of the public who are affected by what happens in Marina del Rey.
“The dilemma that we have was that the commission’s periodic review was completed, but there’s no mechanism to force compliance with the recommendations that the commission made, and so it’s really up to the county to decide how they’re going to respond and if the commission doesn’t agree with their response, they have up to a year to transmit, we get to write a letter to the legislature.
“My answer to that has been in the past, ‘whoopee,’ and when we’ve done that in the past the letter has disappeared and we’ve never heard anymore about it,” Douglas said.
“So we felt that the best way to approach this is to try to get an approach that addresses the overarching issues that the commission was most concerned about, and not insist on a comprehensive amendment to the LCP, because that isn’t going to happen,” Douglas continued.
“And besides, everybody has a different idea of what ‘comprehensive’ means, so like Channel Islands, we worked through this kind of roadmap on how to deal with issues like the pipeline projects, deal with the county’s legal and practical situation in terms of what they have to make decisions by, which is the certified LCP and how we can address the commission’s concerns.
“So that’s how we got here, we wanted to give you this as we did with Channel Islands, we got feedback from you, and since you gave us feedback that you were in agreement with our approach there, that’s what we’re using there, and that’s what we’d like to see from you today,” said Douglas.
Bonnie Neely, chair of the Coastal Commission, said, “I think this approach is great and I’m glad you have such a good partnership with the county right now in regard to dealing with these six pipeline projects. I certainly support the efforts that staff is making and I think we should move forward. Everyone concurs, thank you.”
PUBLIC COMMENT AT THE SUPERVISORS MEETING —
Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose area covers a portion of Venice and Santa Monica, said he wanted to be certain that voting to approve the roadmap process “didn’t mean a blanket approval” for all of the projects as they came before the supervisors.
He said some of his constituents live across from the Marina and he didn’t want to get into a similar situation as in the past, where development impacted views and traffic, and it was too late in the process to do anything about it.
Sanabria replied that the overall compound plan amendment would basically permit these plan amendments to proceed on their own merit, each one would have its own environmental documentations prepared, and the plan amendment itself would have its own environmental review, separate from each one of the projects.
Speakers who opposed the six pipeline projects becoming one amendment process included boaters and local residents David Barish and Nancy Vernon Marino, co-directors of We ARE Marina del Rey, Hans Etter, Jon Nahhas, David DeLange, John Rizzo, Dan Gottlieb, Lynne Shapiro, Eric Fort, Rachel Torres of Unite Here! Local 11, and Richard Hyatt.
Speakers supporting the motion were Derek Jones, representing The Waterfront project, Aaron Clark, representing Legacy Neptune Marina, and Roger Van Wert, a longtime Marina planner.
Opponents to the roadmap process raised a number of issues:
— no legal approval by the Coastal Commission;
— conversion of parking lots to development is not allowed in the LCP;
— Phase I development should be included in any cumulative impact assessment, not just Phase II;
— much of the development is renovation and doesn’t contain additional traffic trips according to the county;
— no acknowledgement that more hotels and apartments can be built by reducing the number of boat slips to free up traffic trips and parking;
— the Santa Monica Mountains, the beaches and Marina del Rey are three of the greatest “recreational treasures” of Los Angeles County and should be protected and enhanced for this and generations to come;
— all these proposed developments rely on a healthy, strong economy to make them work, and there’s no proven demand, with what’s been built sitting empty due to a down economy;
— the need for a community based master plan to take advantage of all the elements;
— a timeshare is illegal on public land, alleges the Coastal Commission;
— the Marina is a place of respite for recreation and relaxation, and should be used for its originally intended purpose as a small craft harbor;
— no consideration for the recreational and small boat use taking place, projects going up are creating wind shadows for boaters, and the impact has not been adequately considered;
— the roadmap process studies six of the most objectionable features that could happen in terms of environmental and human impacts, but doesn’t really look at the rest of all the other projects, just the impacts of them;
— 37 of 38 speakers opposed the Woodfin development at a Regional Planning Commission meeting three weeks prior to this meeting that called for a follow-up meeting for information from county staff, developers and more public comment in October;
— the Woodfin project would bring in delivery trucks in the early morning hours, disturbing the residents;
— hotel guests and timeshare owners would deplete water and energy and add to overuse of sewage, as well as put constraints on an overburdened landfill;
— the county didn’t hold public meetings about the roadmap process;
— only one of the six projects includes boating;
— research of the impact of huge boat slip increases over the last three years shows 50 to 70 percent increases in monthly slip fees;
— a single project-driven LCP amendment allegedly violates CEQA and the Coastal Act;
— the Marina is a vibrant, healthy ecosystem supporting young beginning boaters, mid-size boating and large boats belonging to multi-millionaires, and “if one part of the system is destroyed, the rest goes with it.”
SUPPORTERS OF THE ROADMAP PROCESS —
Supporters of the roadmap process said their individual projects had been underway for some years. One speaker said his project’s request for proposal from the county was undertaken by the county in full view of the need for an amendment to the LCP, and that he supports the roadmap approach because he believes it will provide an opportunity for a comprehensive assessment of the benefits and burdens of these six projects without causing unnecessary delay. He added that projects in the queue for several years could have their feasibility undermined, as well as the central purpose of the county’s Asset Management Strategy.
A second speaker said his company has been working on the project for ten years and that they are in the midst of an EIR and working on getting their entitlements.
A Marina del Rey planner for over 20 years said he supports the roadmap approach, noting it “provides information to everyone.” He said that all of the projects would come before the supervisors and they can approve, reject, or modify them.
Kreimann said it’s not just about these six projects, but that the county has undertaken some extensive planning in the development of some public facilities as well including: an expansion of Burton Chace Park; the Oxford Basin project; the development of a wetland park between the Woodfin Hotel and Neptune Marina projects; and the forward movement of a lot of public amenities.
Kreimann told the supervisors that his department agendized the roadmap or the public process of the roadmap at the Design Control Board and the Small Craft Harbor Commission meetings, and that it was discussed thoroughly.
Knabe said, “I think, you know, the comment that was made by some of those that are opposed to our process was the fact that it was not a formal action of the Coastal Commission. That is in fact, true.
“But there was certainly concurrence, and I have had follow-up conversations with several members of the commission to make sure that the stars are aligned here, and we’re not getting crossway with the Coastal Commission and this roadmap approach in a three-step public process. And clearly that was their intention.
“It wasn’t a formal action, but there was concurrence amongst members, and they have not heard any other negative comments about the roadmap to Marina del Rey,” Knabe said.
Information for the Board of Supervisors meeting transcript is available online at http://bos.co.la.ca.us/.
Information on California Coastal Commission Deputy Director’s Report, click on “video archives of previous meetings, June 11th, 2009, So. Coast District (Los Angeles) at www.coastal.ca.gov/.