After hearing a proposal by the community group We ARE Marina del Rey recommending a moratorium on Marina del Rey development, the Del Rey Neighborhood Council’s Planning, Land Use and Transportation Committee has referred the proposal to the full neighborhood council.
At a meeting of the committee Wednesday, May 27th, We ARE Marina del Rey co-directors Nancy Vernon Marino and David Barish gave a presentation about development in the Marina, and Santos Kreimann, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, presented his department’s point of view on the issue.
Marino and Barish requested that “the committee recommend to its full board that it support the call for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to suspend consideration of all project approvals pending the development, with full public participation, of a well-defined, community-based Master Plan for Marina del Rey with a comprehensive EIR (environmental impact report) or its lawful equivalent.”
Kreimann asked the committee, “Does this neighborhood council committee feel it’s important to stop development?” He added, “The California Coastal Commission made it clear it’s not looking for a moratorium. We’re asked to stop everything. We ask that projects are allowed to go through the process if they meet muster.”
The Venice Neighborhood Council had previously supported the recommendation by We ARE Marina del Rey and in March, the Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee did not recommend the action to its full board, but referred the subject to a future full neighborhood council meeting. Kreimann noted that he was not invited to speak on the issue at the Venice council meeting.
At issue is what Marino and Barish, as well as other local residents and small boat owners, allege is “piece-mealing” of development in the Marina, with the result of large-scale overdevelopment, lack of sufficient parking, illegal amendments to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP), removal of small boat slips with the building of these developments, and major increases in traffic congestion.
Marino claimed that development projects are being implemented and permissions and environmental impact reports are being done on a project-by-project basis instead of on the cumulative impact of all the projects, and that analyzed in a “piece-meal” fashion, the changes could result in unanticipated negative impacts.
Marino referred to several large-scale proposed developments, such as the 19-story Woodfin Suite Hotel/timeshare on Parcel 9U that would be 225 feet high, with a setback of only 20 feet, but a required setback of 100 feet by the California Coastal Act; the Neptune Marina Apartments and Anchorage and public parking lot on Parcel 10/FF; the completed Esprit I project on Parcel 12, (June 2008), with three five-story residential buildings and the elimination of all boat slips under 30 feet; Fisherman’s Village proposed redevelopment; projects on Panay Way; the Del Rey Shores proposed project; and an extended stay hotel on Marina (Mothers) Beach.
Included in the presentation package was a letter request to the Board of Supervisors at its May 12th meeting, which Marino and Barish attended to address the supervisors, requesting that they continue the agenda item for a request for quotation (RFQ) and subsequently a request for proposal (RFP) for a proposed project on Admiralty Way between Mindanao and Fiji Ways (Parcels 49 and 77).
In the letter, Marino said that not including this May 12th project proposal, current plans would convert six of 12 major parking lots into private projects for non-recreational use.
Marino said that public parking lots are protected by the California Coastal Act and could not be used for development, and that the LCP states that only a park or parking shall be developed on an existing public parking lot.
The proposed project is described in county documentation as “soliciting responses from developers interested in developing a high quality, water-oriented commercial and visitor-serving (including restaurants) or mixed-use project with associated parking, replacement boating and launching facilities, public parking, an option to build residential units and/or the Department of Beaches and Harbors new administration building on all or a portion of approximately 16.91 acres of land and up to 1.58 acres of water area that comprise Parcels 49 and 77 in Marina del Rey.”
The supervisors voted to adopt the resolution to authorize the RFQ/RFP.
Marino cited potential impacts on the community and impacts on the recreational area from these developments.
According to Marino, potential project impacts on the community are displacement of current community; loss of economic and social diversity; a burden on incorporated areas for service; loss of middle class tax base; environmental degradation; blight, crime impacts and massive traffic congestion.
Possible impacts on recreational area include destruction of open space; elimination of visual and actual access to the Marina; overcrowding of remaining recreational resources; diminished appeal to visitors; and congested traffic, she said.
The solution would be a Master Plan/EIR that is community-based, with balanced land use, intelligent and sustainable growth, shared benefits and burdens, visitor and Los Angeles County resident use, public access and parking, environmentally sound, and consistency with the California Coastal Act, said Marino.
PRESENTATION BY KREIMANN —
Kreimann told the committee that there is a lot of information out there about the planning process for the Marina and that some of it is inaccurate.
He said that the Marina is a recreational asset for 13 million residents of Los Angeles County, and that public assets needs to be taken care of.
The Marina del Rey LCP was certified in 1996, said Kreimann, which is more recent than the one for Playa Vista (1974). The buildings in the Marina were developed in the 1960s and are now looking at much needed renovations. While several projects require amendments, they are minor amendments, he said.
The LCP is a planning document and there should be a way to amend it. There was intense public outreach in 1996 and developers were asked to offer new amenities or develop projects such as hotels and restaurants to attract more visitors as well as develop apartment complexes, he said.
The 1996 LCP traffic trip base was a total of 2,750 trips, of which only 45 percent has been met, and there is still 55 percent remaining, Kreimann said.
“We’re trying to be very responsible, and know that some folks don’t like specific developments,” he said. “This resolution, a basic moratorium, is asking you to say stop to everything, and go back to 1996 and replan the way they would like. The public voted then and this is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. It’s not practical, it’s impossible.
“Talk about irresponsible development, let’s talk about the City of Los Angeles,” said Kreimann, citing the three large residential buildings on Lincoln Boulevard by Ralphs Fresh Fare market and bordering Admiralty Park on Admiralty Way.
There are more traffic trips generated on Washington and Lincoln Boulevards by the City of Los Angeles than by all 16 developments in Marina del Rey, and there is another city project proposed next door on one acre of land, a 31-story building, he noted.
“Allow us to do our job,” said Kreimann.
“Some projects may change, or not work economically. In a study looking at parking usage, you can shoot a cannon through some parking lots because there is no usage, and parking records bear that out. Why not provide an alternative for residents such as public housing?” he said.
The boat launch will be protected, the director added. A large piece of Parcel 77 is earmarked for park expansion. When Burton Chace Park is expanded, it will provide a connection because Parcel 49 is next door to Parcel 77, Kreimann said.
Taking a comprehensive look at water, slips built in the 1960s were different than today, with smaller slips and smaller boats. “We have to plan for attracting everyone, rich, poor, big and little. We’re criticized when we do something or do nothing,” he said.
Each development goes through a very rigorous EIR. The City of Los Angeles doesn’t require fees from developers to regional transportation, but the county does. Every project is reviewed, sometimes two or three times by entities like the Small Craft Harbor Commission, the Marina del Rey Design Control Board, Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, and then moved to the Board of Supervisors for public comment opportunities.
“Now is not the time to stop development,” he said. “Take three to five years, and leases will come due. We can look at new ideas at that time. We’ve worked hard to get these developments through, to place them in areas that are more conducive to the public, such as visitor amenities, Kreimann continued.
“Why not take the area where unused parking is for that use, public amenities to enjoy in the Marina, such as walking trails, an expanded Chace Park and promenades? Also, the affordable housing policy in the Marina is impressive.”
“We are in the middle of a recession, with a financial impact on us and the City of Los Angeles,” Kreimann continued. “Jobs created for these developments are important. I encourage you to take a look at this resolution and understand what you are being asked to do. We wouldn’t ask the City of Los Angeles to stop all development — it’s not in the best interest and wouldn’t be right or fair.”
Questions from committee members included whether the Marina has an urgent care center, and Kreimann responded that there is an urgent care facility.
Asked about the demographics and the preference on the type of tenants to attract, either younger professionals or families with school age children, Kreimann said it depends on the project. Offering affordable housing would attract families with children. He said he couldn’t specifically say what the demographics would be or who would be attracted to living in the Marina.
The maximum height of a development was also questioned, and Kreimann said the tallest building would be 220 feet high, but that it meets the requirements and does not call for a variance (Woodfin Hotel Suite/timeshare on Parcel 9U on Via Marina and Tahiti Way).
Kreimann told the committee that the original development for that project was a very long, boxy building, and it didn’t meet the view corridor standards because of a lower and wider building. The new project is taller and narrower, he said.
One committee member said that the issue is really about services provided, such as hospitals and contingencies for schools. Kreimann said that Marina del Rey is very small with 400 acres of land, and there is no need to build a school in that size of an area.
Public transportation such as a free trolley was mentioned by a committee member and Kreimann said both the Playa Vista shuttle in partnership with the county, and the water taxi were currently available.
He said he was not happy with the proposed plans for the Mothers Beach project and he is taking another look at it. A conservation and bird protection management plan is being studied so that herons and other birds will have a place in the Marina.
The Marina generates $35 to $38 million for the county, which is earmarked for the general fund, and provides for law, fire, and other vital services in the county. Beaches and Harbors takes a portion for operations each year, said Kreimann. This year $14 million will be given back to the general fund, and Beaches and Harbors is the only department in the county to give money back to the general fund. He pointed out that the Marina is a viable revenue source for the county.
Asked how long all of these projects would take, Kreimann said ten years was a good timeframe, but it depends on the entitlement process, with some projects moving faster than others. The question is the cumulative impact when these are not done as a whole and it would be very overwhelming to add that many more people, a committee member said.
Former land use and planning committee chair Jonathon Neumann said that people need to understand the way that development planning and land use works. It’s a simple economic principle of supply and demand, he said.
“There’s a huge demand and little room in Marina del Rey. You can’t stop development. It’s not realistic and you shouldn’t try. Old facilities in the Marina offer less of a quality environment, and when services suffer, people leave,” Neumann said.
Neumann said not to focus on planners and land use, but on the developers. “Try to understand what is allowed and what isn’t, then go to the developer to work on getting realistic things that benefit the community,” he said.
In public comment, Carla Andrus said no one is against development and that the Marina is in desperate need of renovation. She said that Beaches and Harbors had fallen down on the job for years in having lessees keep up their property, and extended leases rather than finding new developers that will sit down with the public to discuss community-serving projects.
D.G. Franklin, a 30-year resident and boat owner, said she has wanted to see a master plan for the past eight years, and would like to see a full mock-up of projects with building heights, dimensions, and locations. She said that the California Coastal Commission recommended keeping views of the water and the mountains.