Downscaled hotel and wetlands park proposal for Marina del Rey faces public hearing on Wednesday

By Gary Walker

An architect’s rendering shows the two hotels and park proposed  along Via Marina Image courtesy of the Hardage Group

An architect’s rendering shows the two hotels and park proposed
along Via Marina
Image courtesy of the Hardage Group

Marina del Rey residents will have their chance to weigh in on a restructured hotel and wetlands park proposal for Via Marina when the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission takes a second look at the concept on Wednesday.

The California Coastal Commission granted San Diego-based hotel developer the Hardage Group coastal development permits for a 19-story, 225-foot, 288-room hotel and timeshare alongside a nearly 1.5-acre wetlands and uplands park three years ago, but the L.A. County Board of Supervisors considered the project too large and sent it back to county planning authorities.

The new proposal is 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 hotel project would include a parking garage, restaurant, fitness center and a bar/lounge as well as a 28-foot wide pedestrian promenade and a water taxi shelter.

“We’re coming back with a measured, less-intensive project. We’ve been very responsive to [marina] residents’ concerns,” said Aaron Clark, who represents the Hardage Group.

The Hardage Group is seeking addendums to an earlier environmental analysis of the project and county approval for coastal development, conditional use and parking permits as well as a variance for the pedestrian promenade.

The addendum to the environmental study should not prevent the project from moving forward if the commission approves the study, said county planner Kevin Finkel.

A long-running theme among marina residents who oppose more intensified development of the harbor is that increased density brings with it increased traffic.

Lynne Shapiro, a 28-year marina resident who has been outspoken on these issues, said this project is no different. She also believes work on the Venice Dual Force Main sewer line replacement project, expected to last nearly two years, will compound the impacts of construction.

“I don’t think it is right to have a hotel in a residential area. There will be more people and more traffic because of all of the taxis coming to the hotel,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro and others also challenge the project’s traffic study, saying it does not adequately gauge the potential impact that a nearly 300-room hotel would have on Via Marina.

Playa del Rey resident Marcia Hanscom, executive director of the wetlands organization the Ballona Institute, says Marina del Rey has enough hotels.

“Getting in and out of this peninsula area is becoming increasingly difficult. Adding a hotel to this packed-in area is unacceptable,” Hanscom said.

Clark says he often hears complaints about the marina being oversaturated with development and hotels, but he says the Hardage Group plan would accommodate a mix of visitors that includes one group currently under-served: families.

“This site is zoned for what we’re asking for. And this particular hotel [the Residence Inn] will service a different type of tourist that isn’t served in Marina del Rey. It will have kitchenettes where families that often can’t spend a lot in restaurants can prepare meals at the hotel,” Clark said. “The hotels will serve a combination of visitors, from businesses travelers to families on vacation.”

Hanscom takes particular issue with the wetlands and uplands park space considered by the project, calling it a “manicured water feature.”

A group of about a dozen Marina del Rey residents who are generally critical of the county’s development strategy have accused officials of reneging on promises to build a park in the marina, citing amendments that county supervisors approved three years ago calling for open space on certain parcels on the marina’s west side. They claim a park should have been built in place of the parking lot on Via Marina and Marquesas Way, where Legacy Partners is planning a 126-unit apartment complex.

County planners say there were never plans to build a park at the Marquesas Way site, known as Parcel 14.

An amendment to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program in 2012 designated Parcel 14 for “multi-family residential development and designated the southern portion of Parcel 9U [the Hardage Group hotel site] as open space,” Finkel said.

Wednesday’s planning commission vote on the Hardage Group proposal will be final unless the decision is appealed to the Board of Supervisors, Finkel said.

Hanscom thinks county leaders can utilize other local resources as a means of generating public revenue and drawing visitors to the marina and turn a profit.

“If the county wants revenue — which clearly they do, from every inch of space they can get — they ought to do more to promote the area as an ecotourism destination and raise the hotel occupancy tax,” she said.

The public hearing for the Hardage Group hotel proposal is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 22, at the County Hall of Records, 320 W. Temple St., Room 150, in downtown Los Angeles.