A new retail center, upgrades to Mother’s Beach and relocation of boater services are on tap for the harbor
By Gary Walker and Joe Piasecki
A county plan to maximize amenities, improve traffic flow and control development in Marina del Rey would redraw the harbor’s existing landscape to make room for up to 200,000 square feet of new retail development and as many as 940 new hotel rooms.
If approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors later this year, the Marina del Rey Visioning Statement released Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Dept. of Regional Planning would direct long-term changes that include:
• Relocate the public boat launch to South Fiji Way and consolidate boat storage and services into that area — including space currently occupied by Fisherman’s Village — to create a “Boater’s Way” district
• Build a retail and entertainment complex on the former boat launch and storage area to intensify commercial use of the northeast portion of the harbor, resulting in a “Visitor’s Row” district
• Create a waterfront promenade along Marina (Mother’s) Beach, develop “low- to mid-rise hotels” behind the beach and increase access to non-motorized recreational water activities there
• Designate the west side of the harbor south of Mother’s Beach as a primarily residential district
• Develop “mobility hubs” throughout the marina that link parking areas with bicycle transportation, public shuttles and waterbus transportation services under a “park once” strategy to reduce traffic congestion
Officials will present the plan and take public comment during two public meetings over the next few days — one at 10 a.m. Saturday and the other at 6 p.m. Tuesday, both in the community center at Burton Chase Park, 13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey.
Proposals for the harbor’s renovation could take years to fully implement but won’t require land purchases, as the county already owns the entirety of the marina. Developers operate under county lease agreements, and residents are tenants of those developers.
In their report, county planners list the formation of mobility hubs, Mother’s Beach upgrades and development of a “contiguous waterfront promenade” among the more immediately attainable objectives.
Janet Zaldua, executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, is optimistic about the Marina’s potential for growth.
“I’d like to see [Marina del Rey] become more visitor-friendly, with more directional signage and bicycling and pedestrian opportunities,” said Zaldua, who participated in meetings and focus groups that were part of the county planning process.
“Upgrading our hotels is also crucial because we’re less than 15 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport and, as a tourist destination, that would put us on an even playing field with Venice and Santa Monica,” Zaldua said.
While the county report criticizes the harbor’s current design as a hodge-podge of uses that forces people to rely too heavily on cars to get around, others fear overly organizing the harbor will take away some of its charm.
“Boaters like going all over the place and exploring. I like the chaos,” said Randall Burg, a lifelong Marina del Rey resident who owns Randall Burg Yacht and Ship Inc. at Pier 44 on Admiralty Way. “If the county makes it all look the same by having everything in the same place, [the harbor] will become boring.”
Many residents and boat owners tend to distrust the county and remain leery of change.
Roslyn Walker, a 20-year Marina del Rey resident, attended several county meetings leading up to the release of the Marina del Rey Visioning Statement but said prior history of county development approvals over neighbors’ objections has soured her on the public process.
“They have [approved] so many projects here and not listened to us for years, so the idea of ‘visioning’ makes me laugh and sick to my stomach at the same time,” Walker said. “No one at the county listens to us, so in my opinion this is just a bunch of baloney.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes Marina del Rey, encouraged residents to take part in the process before plans become final.
“There will always be naysayers to anything,” Knabe said. “This is probably the best opportunity that the public will have to participate in the planning of Marina del Rey for the next 40 years, and I hope that we get some really good ideas.”