A second environmental impact report (EIR) for a Marina del Rey project is being challenged by nearby residents again, who say that the document does not adequately address adverse consequences to the surrounding area.
The board of directors of the Marina Strand Colony II Homeowners Association, in an appeal to the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, is asking that the EIR for the Shores project at 4201 Via Marina be rejected due to a variety of traffic, environmental and infrastructure concerns.
“The analysis fails to offer accurate and enforceable actions around environmental and traffic mitigation,” stated Michael Rosenfeld, the director of the condominium owners board of Strand Colony II, the petitioners in the case.
On July 8th, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to set aside various land use entitlements and certification of the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) that it had granted in 2007 for the 544-unit, five-story development on Via Marina. The lessee is Jerry Epstein, a prominent developer in the Marina for several decades.
The project site is currently occupied by a two-story building with 202 residential units.
The environmental document has been recirulated for public comment, and Rosenfeld hopes that all interested parties who live in and near Marina del Rey will add their opinions before the deadline.
The board’s decision followed an April ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe, who found that a segment of the EIR was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a 1990 landmark state environmental statute.
Yaffe, a CEQA jurist, focused on the portion of the EIR that related to grading work of the soil at the project site, its transportation from the area and the potential impact that this could have on the immediate area.
In the initial environmental document, county officials described the excavation site as “balanced” and declared that it would require moving approximately 40,000 cubic yards of soil and construction debris.
The characterization of the site as “unbalanced” appeared for the first time in the final environmental report and was never circulated for public review.
“Balanced excavation” suggests that all of the material that is removed would be used to make fills on the site, requiring no fill material to be imported and no surplus excavation material to be removed from the site.
“Due to changes in the site alteration, grading on the project is not balanced and approximately 25,940 cubic yards of earth would require export from the project site,” the FEIR read.
The demolition of the existing buildings on the site, together with construction debris generated after demolition would total approximately 92,576 cubic yards of solid waste that would be transported from the site, according to the report.
Yaffe faulted the county planners for violating one of the central tenets of CEQA, which is public participation in a transparent fashion.
“By failing to adequately treat the effect of its design in the FEIR, the county has concealed from the public the true basis upon which the FEIR was approved,” the judge wrote. “CEQA has not been scrupulously followed.”
David Levine, Epstein’s chief of staff and the managing partner of the Shores project, believes that the Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors will approve this version of the EIR without any difficulty.
“I believe that the county and its consultants have done a most thorough analysis of the issue,” he said. “There is nothing in the additional analysis that will raise any doubts in the minds of the supervisors,” Levine added, referring to a portion of the recent environmental document that details the compliance with Yaffe’s earlier ruling.
Rosenfeld and his neighbors believe that the Regional Planning Commission should not recommend the project for approval because they feel that there are several other factors that can have an adverse effect on their community.
“Traffic mitigation, in particular, was not accurately discussed in the previous EIR,” Rosenfeld contends. “The developer relied on an outdated traffic study that did not take into account how traffic has increased in the Marina over the last several years.”
The court rejected these arguments in April, ruling solely on the excavation portion of the environmental analysis.
Rosenfeld also said that evaluating each parcel individually does not take into account the “cumulative effect that a development can have on the entire area.”
David Barish, a Marina del Rey resident, agrees that examining each development on a separate basis does not lend itself to having more responsible development in the coastal enclave.
“Evaluating parcels piecemeal is the argument we have been making for years,” said Barish, president of We ARE Marina del Rey, a network of local activists who seek to mobilize community action to preserve and enhance the vibrant Marina del Rey community. “We believe that this piecemeal approach is being used by the county in order to hide the overall environmental and traffic impacts of all the various projects, including the Shores.
“The coastal commission called it bad planning and it is, we believe, a violation of CEQA statutes.”
Levine reiterated his hope that the Department of Regional Planning and the Board of Supervisors will take into account the additional analysis and how it has corrected the earlier violation.
“I think that the additional analysis will shed sufficient light on this issue, and should satisfy any questions that the supervisors may have,” he said.
Rosenfeld says that he has no objection to the Marina being used as a revenue-generating asset for the county.
“But I do believe that there is something wrong with approving developments that are not conducive to the size and scale of the Marina community,” he said.
The last day for public comment on the EIR is Monday, November 17th. If the commission approves the document, it will come before the Board of Supervisors on November 25th.
Calls to the Department of Regional Planning for comment had not been returned at Argonaut press time.