Relocation was key element of harbor renovation plan but unpopular with boaters

By Gary Walker

Who says participating in public meetings won’t make a difference?

A month after more than 150 Marina del Rey residents and local boat owners publicly skewered a plan to demolish the harbor’s public boat launch and rebuild it on a parcel currently occupied by Fisherman’s Village, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe has announced he’s officially spiking the idea.

Relocating the launch from Basin H to Fiji Way was a key component of the county’s long-term visioning plan to accommodate increased development in Marina del Rey by establishing boating, retail and residential zones in the harbor. Along with the subsequent demolition of Fisherman’s Village, it also appeared to be the plan’s most controversial element.

“I want the public to know that I’ve listened to you and I’m removing the idea of relocating the public boat launch from further consideration in the visioning process. The process itself will continue, and I encourage you to continue your involvement, because it does make a difference,” said Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey on the board.

During the May 26 Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting at Burton Chace Park, boaters praised current access conditions at the boat launch and argued moving it to Fiji Way would decrease safety and convenience. Commissioners agreed and voted 5-0 to oppose moving the ramp, but many accused county officials of pre-determining outcomes of the visioning process.

“After a study conducted by a consultant and reviewed by the U.S. Coast Guard deemed the move to be safe, I felt it was appropriate to introduce the idea into the visioning process for public discussion. It was meant as a point of departure for a broader discussion. It was not a direction, and it was never a done deal. Somehow that got lost in translation,” Knabe said.

The visioning plan ponders up to 200,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space in the harbor as well as up to 940 additional hotel rooms and a waterside pedestrian promenade. The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider adopting elements of the plan as early as this fall, county Supervising Regional Planner Gina Natoli said.