Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors Director Santos Kreimann was the featured speaker at the Marina Affairs Committee meeting Wednesday, March 18th, discussing Marina del Rey development issues. The Marina Affairs Committee is a committee of the LAX Coastal Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kreimann told the audience that there has been a lot of information released regarding Marina development, some accurate and some not. He said he appreciated the opportunity to educate the community and shed light on what’s going on in the Marina, and that he will meet with anyone, anywhere and anytime to discuss concerns and questions.

He said that everybody belongs to a city, and there is a General Plan that is developed by the city, usually an integrated, participatory plan. This plan includes specific details for entitlements, building heights, massing, setbacks and density, among others.

The Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) is very similar to a General Plan, addressing land use requirements, heights, and massing. There is also another layer of review, which is the coastal review. That review process is similar to the functional equivalent of an environmental impact report (EIR), said Kreimann.

The LCP is not necessarily an EIR. It’s basically the general guidelines of what can and cannot be developed in Marina del Rey, he said.

When developers want to build a project, they’re required to develop an EIR based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and there is a separate process each project goes through, such as the impact on traffic, aesthetics, air pollution and cumulative effects. This is a very rigorous and public process, he said.

A lot of folks are saying that the Marina doesn’t have a master plan and that everything is being done piece-meal. That’s just not the case. The LCP is the master plan, providing the guidance for development of hotels, restaurants and other developments. If the project doesn’t conform to this master plan, there is a process to amend the LCP to allow use for a particular parcel.

Kreimann said that most LCPs last for a long time and added that he’s being told that the LCP is outdated, as it doesn’t show all significant impacts.

The General Plan for Westchester-Playa del Rey was updated in 1974, and only refined in 2004, making the Marina LCP a relatively new planning document since it was certified in 1996. This has been lost in translation by many people in the community, he said.

Playa Vista’s Specific Plan was first certified in 1986, and just recently has gone through an environmental process for The Village phase, he said.

It’s important that everyone understands that we do have a master plan in the Marina that we are following. We do have some projects that require an amendment to the LCP. That is a very rigorous process, said Kreimann.

The document has to be able to live and breathe; it can’t be a stagnant snapshot in time. As things change, the document has to expand and contract as need be, he said.

The LCP is a guiding document, while the CEQA process deals with impacts of a project.

It’s unfair for anyone to think the county should stop development, place a moratorium on all development, based on the notion that we don’t have a master plan and we’re piece-mealing. We’re not piece-mealing, he said.

We’re going through the same process as other entities, any municipality in the county, even nationwide. There is no difference; it is the same process, he continued.

Regarding public parking lots, we found that by and large they’re not used very often – mainly the Fourth of July and the Christmas Boat Parade – and the process to transform those underutilized parcels is to change the land use.

Developers are required in their negotiations to replace the public parking. It’s in the best interests of the public that public parking be relocated to areas with more public amenities.

As an example, he discussed Parcel OT (on Admiralty Way near the Marina International Hotel), which is currently being underutilized for parking and where the plan is to build senior housing.

The county still has to maintain some public parking on that parcel, but it’s better to replace public parking by Marina Beach, where it’s really needed, said Kreimann.

Everyone was able to give input during the public process, and a Westchester/Playa Public Land Use Committee member told him at a meeting in Playa Vista that he remembered a significant public presence during the public meetings, Kreimann said.

I don’t believe it’s fair to say we now have to stop for a brand new update of the LCP. That would take a tremendous amount of time, around three to five years, he said.

In the meantime, there would be no development. If you see buildings in Marina del Rey right now, some are very nice and new, but the Los Angeles Business Journal said that Fisherman’s Village is a ghost town, said Kreimann.

We need to attract investors to maintain Fisherman’s Village as a relevant place for recreation for residents and visitors.

He pointed out that he had been named acting director on April Fool’s Day and the anniversary was coming up. He said he has needed to assess projects, sometimes a very difficult assessment, and after having conversations with stakeholders and his staff, he decided he needed to honor commitments. This doesn’t mean he hasn’t put his thumbprint on some of those negotiations, including some that he considered onerous, he said.

The decision to go ahead was for the county and the millions of residents that benefit from Marina del Rey, improving life in and around the Marina.

The LCP is a viable, living and breathing document. It’s very public and transparent, he said.

Kreimann said that the Design Control Board, commissioned in the 1970s, was originally responsible to make sure issues such as aesthetics, massing, site issues, circulation patterns, colors, materials, landscaping and signage were in accordance with the LCP.

Los Angeles County Regional Planning and the DCB had similar responsibilities, and in effect were two masters for the same function. Conceptual approval was needed from the DCB before a project could come to Regional Planning.

There tended to be a delay of five months at times, since the applicant/developer had to wait 30 days for each subsequent DCB meeting for approval.

The change is that approval to conformance of the LCP is now vested in Regional Planning, as the board does in all other aspects of county business. The developer now initiates an application with Regional Planning and the clock starts with the Design Control Board – a period of 120 days to make comments regarding massing, height and other issues.

In the meantime, Regional Planning is going through its process which is more streamlined. The county is not trying to water down the ability of the DCB, it’s really a process of where responsibility for the LCP lies, said Kreimann.

Questions from the audience included traffic flow in the Marina. Kreimann said that every developer is required to pay traffic mitigation fees, and lessees have done so for a long time.

Kreimann said it’s unfair that the Marina is being blamed for all of the traffic when development by the City of Los Angeles, which doesn’t require payment of traffic mitigation fees, is surrounding the Marina.

He said that the issue is to widen certain intersections – Via Marina, Bali Way, Palawan and Mindanao Way – to enhance traffic flow.

The environmental process for this project is undergoing a review, and once the process is complete, construction could start in 12 to 18 months.

He said the county is also looking at traffic congestion based on construction and one-lane roads, and is looking at procedures in case of emergency.

Kreimann told the audience that it’s important for the public to attend meetings and voice their opinions, whether they are for or against a development.

He said that there should not be a group or individual that say they represent all Marina residents, because that is not the case.

The ultimate decision is mine, and I won’t let my department be ruled by committee, said Kreimann.

He said that because of the current economic situation, his department wants to work with local business owners in assisting them to keep shopping dollars in the Marina. He said he’s open to all suggestions and ideas, such as approving a temporary banner to advertise a business.

A steering committee is being set up with the assistance of Dusty Crane of Beaches and Harbors and Beverly Moore, the executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau to include local business owners to meet regarding marketing ideas.

The Marina del Rey LCP can be viewed on the county Web site at http://marinadelrey.lacounty.gov/.