In his State of the Marina address February 17th, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said the county “did the right thing in setting aside money for a rainy-day fund, but it didn’t anticipate the 100-year flood.”
Knabe, who addressed the Marina Affairs Committee of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce at the Marina del Rey Hotel, said he wished he could say that things are different this year, but the “same extreme frustration exists” because of the current budget situation in the California legislature.
“The state legislature is in lockdown and frozen in partisanship, and they need to get their arms around the problem,” he said.
“The bureaucracy is at the state level. With most of the major projects that we oversee as the largest municipal government in America, the state has nothing other than administrative responsibility; they don’t operate anything.”
The supervisor noted that the county budget was reduced by close to $700 million, roughly about six percent of the budget.
“We saw this coming in the sense that property taxes were all booming for a while, with growth maybe at 15 or 16 percent, then down to 13 and 11 percent,” he noted.
“The problem now is that we’re sitting here trying to get ourselves ready for what we think will be a major shoe-dropping.
“We saw our sales tax revenues declining, the transient occupancy tax declining, and that’s why we put money aside for our county departments,” Knabe said.
“We are the safety net, that’s our job. We provide health care, hospitals, clinics, welfare, food stamps, support services, and we are required by law to provide these services. The biggest fear at the state level is that they’ll have to cut programs for which they passed a law.
“Just tell us what we’re going to have to live with. I won’t be happy, but as long as we know, workers can match up to that.”
Knabe noted that the county has initiated hiring freezes but has not had to furlough workers or have layoffs in various departments over the last year to close the budget gap.
The scenario has been to ask for reductions from five to nine percent, sometimes greater, from different departments because the county is trying to be prepared and still has to provide services that are state and federally mandated, he said.
“This is just the beginning and we’re okay right now. Big is good, and the county is in a better situation to deal with this than most counties in the state and the City of Los Angeles, because of the way they spent their particular dollars over the years,” the supervisor said.
“We didn’t get caught up in all the big-pension things, the big retirements. Our unions cooperated with us. We know that we’re probably, one of the biggest employers in the basin, so we know what we have to do and how we do it is important to the public.”
With approximately 39 different bargaining unions covering almost 90,000 employees, all of the unions have signed off on a two-year deal with no raises or cost-of-living increases, he said.
“They know they’re our partners and that’s unheard of. Other cities in California and across the nation want to know how we accomplished that,” Knabe said.
“A few years ago, voters passed Proposition 1a, which protected local dollars to keep them local. Now they’re going after every pot of money not protected under Proposition 1a. They’re going after transportation dollars again and some other things, wondering how they’ll pay their bills.
“The League of Cities is currently trying to put something on the ballot to protect all that,” Knabe stated.
Noting that the state legislature indicated they want to be partners and are looking for ideas, Knabe said he had a suggestion.
“Let us run the welfare program. We run it, every county in the state runs the program. We get money through you, you get 35 percent of revenues for administrative overhead.
“You don’t see a client, you don’t touch a client. If a client in Los Angeles County has a problem, we send it up north, and if someone is on vacation, it takes six days to get an answer,” he said.
Knabe said this situation is indicative of the need for a systemic overhaul in how the state does business, and that there’s no way it can continue to do business as usual.
“Some of the legislation coming from Sacramento such as a proposed bill to curtail free parking doesn’t deserve ten seconds of discussion in the legislature when you have a $20 billion hole,” he said.
“It doesn’t put another sheriff or firefighter on the street, build another fire station, provide health care, create a job or put food in someone’s mouth.
“We’re trying to be a partner in all this, but when the whacking starts, we get whacked because if they just eliminate dollars and not programs, then in that small amount of a $26 billion budget we get to play with, that’s how we fund libraries, parks, and enhance public safety, so we’re going into this balancing act because 85 percent of our budget is mandates,” remarked Knabe.
10,000 JOBS PROGRAM —
Knabe said that in the 1990s, 38 different states had offices in Southern California to take jobs from California.
“It’s happening again, but not on the same scale. We need to be business-friendly, and I got involved in the 10,000 jobs program last March. We found a pot of stimulus money through our county CEO’s office that had a very unique piece to the way it was spent, on temporary jobs,” said Knabe.
“Cal Works started jobs for welfare-eligible individuals, minimum wage, living wage jobs, and on July 1st, we started with a goal of 10,000 jobs. Three weeks ago we passed that number, reaching 10,044 jobs.
“These jobs are jobs that people might otherwise have been on an entitlement program, but now they have a paycheck and are able to make purchases.
“The jobs are temporary and expire on October 1st of this year and I’m trying to get an extension. These aren’t just county individuals because only 700 are county jobs. The rest are private sector and non-profits,” Knabe stated.
The South Bay Work Force Investment Board is the employer of record, not the county, and everything is funneled through them, as they do all the interviewing and hiring, pay insurance and workers’ compensation. Eighty percent of the cost of the employees is picked up through this pot of money, and the other 20 percent is through the employer, he explained.
“If you fit in with this, your own business or a non-profit you’re involved with, the goal is to keep people employed until things get better and then maybe there’s an opportunity for permanent employment. It’s a small step, but 10,000 jobs is 10,000 jobs,” Knabe said.
For details, www.Knabe.com/.
MARINA DEL REY DEVELOPMENT UPDATE —
Knabe said that the budget of Santos Kreimann, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, has been curtailed by approximately 15 percent, creating budgetary issues.
This doesn’t include money to the Accumulative Capital Outlay Fund (ACO), which has been reduced from $3 million to $1 million, and Knabe said he has introduced a motion to keep any fees generated, new or increased, for the Beaches and Harbors budget rather than the county general fund.
Knabe told the audience that 29 different projects are currently in the works in Marina del Rey and 11 projects have been completed:
Admiralty Apartments have been completed; Marina Towers has been refurbished; The fuel dock project is expected to be completed in September; and Parcel 27, the Jamaica Bay Inn renovation, is underway.
Knabe said that Parcel 15, Bar Harbor, was delayed and “in exchange we got a million-dollar fee, an increase in $215,000 in annual minimum rent, and other agreed upon items.”
Parcels 100/101 Del Rey Shores has various stages of construction, and in 2009 the Board of Supervisors approved Parcel 8, EIR Bay Club Apartments, Knabe noted.
Also approved was a time extension for Parcel 52/GG Boat Central to secure additional entitlements for the dry-stack boat storage project.
The Marina del Rey Design Control Board approved renovation plans for the Marina International Hotel, and the Board of Supervisors approved them and finalized negotiations February 16th, he said.
The Regional Planning Commission is considering the Oceana Retirement Facility near Oxford Basin, the redevelopment of Holiday Harbor, the proposed Woodfin Hotel Suites and passive wetland park on Parcel 9U, as well as the adjacent Neptune Apartments and Anchorage project.
Knabe gave an update on the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program Periodic Review, saying that the county’s response to the California Coastal Commission is due in April. The Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors must approve the final response before it goes to the California Coastal Commission.
PUBLIC WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS —
Knabe told the audience that the county has decided to file a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles after the City Council unanimously approved construction of the pipeline for the Venice Dual Force Main Pumping Plant project in county-owned Marina del Rey at Via Marina rather than the originally identified site on Pacific Avenue, which is city property.
“We had this spirit of cooperation with Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and Public Works, and then the City Council selected the Via Marina route, even though county officials testified against it, and they ramrodded it through,” said Knabe.
The cost of using Via Marina is considerably more and is much more inconvenient to county residents than city residents, he said.
Transfer of $1.5 million from Costco mitigation fees was approved for a traffic improvement project on Admiralty Way and Fiji Way to the Via Marina intersection. The transfer of $1.5 million from the ACO fund for a water line replacement project was completed to finance a portion of 20,000 linear feet or 3.8 miles of steel pipeline to upgrade water lines to meet domestic and fire issues, and the first phase starts in April, stated Knabe.
Other updates mentioned were an agreement reached with Hornblower Yachts to operate the Marina Waterbus at seven boarding locations for an extended period and the Oxford Retention Basin Flood Protection Multi-use Enhancement Project, which is underway.
A 20-year agreement has been approved for the Ballona Creek Trail Bicycle Path project that includes signage, landscaping, bike racks and other amenities. Knabe also said that the county has applied for a $5 million grant from the state Department of Boating and Waterways for a public boat launch facility improvement project, and the county wants to add an 80-foot ADA-accessible gangway in the project.