Strategic plan will guide ‘the big picture’ of growth and redevelopment in the harbor, Knabe says

The county wants to divide Marina del Rey into four districts

The county wants to divide Marina del Rey into four districts

By Gary Walker

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Oct. 28 to approve the Marina del Rey Vision Statement, a planning document that contemplates a partial reconfiguration of the harbor community to make way for additional retail outlets, restaurants and hotel rooms.

By carving the marina into retail, residential, boating and recreation districts supported by “park once” mobility hubs designed to limit traffic congestion, city planners believe the marina can support between 610 and 940 additional hotel rooms as well as the development of 206,000 square feet of new retail or restaurant space.

In a nod to the boom of the technology and media sector in nearby Playa Vista, Venice and Santa Monica, the plan conceives that “future office development should be for less-traditional, creative space.”

Implementation of the vision statement will come through individual building permit and leasing decisions over years or even decades. Restrictions on growth include maintaining a “bowl concept” allowing only shorter buildings along the waterfront and keeping taller ones on the other side of Admiralty Way or Via Marina.

Land in Marina del Rey, an unincorporated district of Los Angeles County, is publicly owned but leased to private developers for improvements.

“This [document] gives us the opportunity to look at all of the projects — all of our land-use issues, our mobility and traffic concerns — in the big picture instead of analyzing everything piece by piece,” L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes the marina, told The Argonaut. “This way, through sound planning and with the input of the public, we can control how we want the marina to look in the future.”

The 25-page vision statement calls for “multi-modal mobility hubs that would co-locate vehicular, [public] transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities at strategic locations throughout the marina” that would “allow people to quickly enter the marina, park, get out of their cars and navigate the marina without the use of cars.”

“This gives us the opportunity to explore a variety of new things, including having more bicycle opportunities, more water-oriented opportunities [such as expanded water taxi service] and just making the marina more walkable,” Knabe said.

Tim Riley, head of the Marina Lessees Association, urged the board to approve the visioning document during its deliberations in downtown Los Angeles.

“Much of what’s in the visioning statement is what our lessees have been advocating for years. What’s before you is in fact the result of a lot of public participation,” Riley said.

Jon Nahhas, a Playa del Rey resident who heads the Marina del Rey Boaters Coalition, argued that increased development in the marina would restrict and hinder harbor access and enjoyment for recreational boaters.

In comments during the meeting, Nahhas alleged a general pattern of “secret negotiations” between county officials and developers as well as a lack of opportunities for “meaningful participation” by the public.

“There have been over 40 meetings since we started this [process] a year and a half ago, and people have had a chance to be a part of this whether they’ve chosen to do it online or in person,” Knabe countered. “I realize that some people want to say that we haven’t been transparent, but it’s not true.”

Nahhas and other recreational voters scored a victory at one such meeting in June, when the majority of some 150 people who attended a county Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting objected to an early vision statement proposal to move the public boat launch from 3477 Fiji Way to the parcel where Fisherman’s Village stands today.

Knabe subsequently took relocation of the ramp off the table, and the approved vision plan notes that it should stay in place.

A spokeswoman for the leaseholders of Fisherman’s Village said last year that the group has contemplated redevelopment of the aging complex but would hold off on submitting plans until after the vision statement was finalized.