Footprint to include pedestrian promenade, public anchorage and wetlands park

By Gary Walker

An architectural rendering of the twin hotels planned for Via Marina Image courtesy of the Hardage Group

An architectural rendering of the twin hotels planned for Via Marina
Image courtesy of the Hardage Group

Despite slow-growth advocates’ concerns about traffic, density and preservation of ecologically sensitive open space, the five-member Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission voted unanimously last Wednesday to approve plans for a new hotel complex in Marina del Rey.

San Diego-based developers the Hardage Group aims to build a five-story Marriott Courtyard Hotel and six-story Residence Inn on 2.2 acres along Via Marina between Marquesas Way and Tahiti Way.

The parcel will also contain a 1.46-acre wetlands and uplands park that was previously approved by the California Coastal Commission.

Hotel amenities will include a pedestrian promenade, public anchorage, water taxi shelter parking garage, restaurant and a bar/lounge.

Project opponents say the marina already has plenty of hotels and that new ones will only bring more congestion to clogged traffic arteries.

Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Janet Zaldua counters that the new hotels will keep the marina competitive as a tourist destination and bring in more tax revenue that could support public infrastructure improvements. She cited a study by PKF Consulting that concluded the marina’s existing six hotels had an overall 79.3% occupancy rate last year.

“The demand for hotel rooms in the area remains strong. The market has historically performed with an occupancy rate in the high 70s, and we expect this trend to continue with the addition of a new hotel property,” Zaldua said. “The project will be a tremendous asset to Marina del Rey and will strengthen the marina’s position as a premier travel and tourism destination.”

Aaron Clark, who represents the Hardage Group, said the new hotel complex’s public anchorage, waterfront dining component and wetlands/uplands park will benefit resident, too.

“We view this project as a major win for Marina del Rey,” he said.

The grassroots community group We ARE Marina del Rey, opposed to increasing commercial density in the harbor, has accused county planning officials of “piecemealing” a broader effort to redevelop the marina by continually approving projects such as the two new hotels. According to the California Environmental Quality Act, “piecemealing” describes the act of considering several projects on an incremental basis to minimize consideration of their overall environmental impact.

The developer still needs to obtain building permits, which could take a year, said county planner Michael Tripp. Hardage will also be required to go back before the Marina del Rey Design and Control Board for final approval of its hotel design.

Opponents of the project have until Aug. 5 to appeal the Regional Planning Commission’s approval.

Critical of the proposed wetlands/uplands park’s ecological value, Ballona Institute Executive Director Marcia Hanscom said the group is “considering its options.”