By Helga Gendell
Part XIII of the Marina del Rey history series addresses greater development growth.
Part XII concluded with information from Los Angeles Times reporter Jeffrey Rabin about then Los Angeles Board of Supervisors chair Ed Edelman’s attempt to propose a policy that would balance the public’s right to know about Marina del Rey development against the need to attract investments in county projects.
In a December 16th, 1984 article titled, “Marina Land-Use, Condo Plans Pave Way for Greater Growth,” Los Angeles Times reporter James Rainey said, “County officials said last week that they have no intention of returning Marina del Rey to open space and public use when the leases on its restaurants, apartment buildings and boat anchorages expire in 40 years.
“A master lease governing all 58 properties in the publicly owned marina gives the county the option of returning the land to the public when the lease expires.”
Rainey’s article continues, “But a recently approved land-use plan and a proposal to convert apartments to condominiums paves the way for more intense development at the marina and extensions of the leases held by business and apartment owners.
“Critics say the county is too willing to give up its most valuable piece of property, the 804-acre marina, to private investors. The landuse and condominium plans move away from the idea of making the marina a public recreation area.
“The land-use plan, certified in October by the Coastal Commission, will permit a 26 percent increase in the number of apartments and 1,841 new hotel rooms. Another proposal, to go before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, would put the first condominiums in the marina. Two parcels would be taken out of public use for as long as 99 years for 830 condominiums,” said Rainey.
“Although the Board of Supervisors has not extended most leases with marina businesses, the recent events indicate its intent, according to Supervisor Deane Dana. Dana said he supported the land-use plan and will support the condominium plan. He said leases on other parcels might be extended as an incentive for apartment and business renovation.
“The board last year approved lease extensions of 20 years on two parcels. Real Property Management, Inc., a Marina del Rey development company [owned by Abraham M. Lurie], said that it needed the longer leases to obtain loans to build two 300-room hotels. The hotels are now under construction,” Rainey’s article stated.
“The debate over how marina property would be used was first raised during construction in the early 1960s. Planners originally intended to keep apartments out of the small craft harbor, but the Board of Supervisors was anxious to pay off $13 million in revenue bonds. It decided that it would be easier to lease parcels to investors if apartment construction was allowed.
The Times article continues, “The Marina has been successful, with businesses grossing more than $215 million in the 1983-84 fiscal year, more than quadrupling revenues in 1970. No large leaseholder has ever failed.
“Apartments have become an accepted part of the Marina’s success. Owners of the apartments collect more than $55 million a year in rent, and pay 7 ½ percent of that to the county.
“The county has paid off the revenue bonds ahead of schedule and this year expects to collect $12 million as its share of the rent from apartments and other facilities in the marina.”
“When the county Regional
Planning Department began to
write the land-use plan for the marina
last year, it relied on this financially
successful model. A plan
drawn up by a consultant for marina
business interest became the
basis of the county’s land use plan.
The Times article continues,
“There is a feeling that is reflected
in the plan that the lessees stuck
their necks out in building in the
marina,” said county planner Dave
Cowardin. “And there seems to be
a tendency to go along with what
they have contributed and what
“The apartments, boat slips and
restaurants have served the public
well, according to planners and
Dana. Cowardin said the nine-acre
park Burton Chace Park, Fisherman’s
Village shopping center,
6,000 boat slips and public parking
near the main channel have served
“Dana said there is no need to
open large recreation areas because
few people use two marina parks
and nearby beaches.
“I just can’t see it,” he said. “If
you took out all those apartments
and put in green grass and benches
there would be a vast nothingness,
because no one would want to use
Rainey’s article continues, “But
officials familiar with the area said
public facilities are popular. Burton
Chace Park is ‘probably the most
heavily used nine acres of park
land anywhere in the county,’ said
Jim Cole of the county Department
of Beaches and Harbors.”
“A small beach inside the marina
is crowded during the summer.
Many marina residents must go to
Venice to use public tennis and
basketball courts, according to a
former Coastal Commission planner
who lived in the area.
“Nearby ocean beaches are not
heavily used because of inadequate
parking, officials said.
The Times article continues,
“Members of the Marina Tenants
Association proposed that as leases
expire, the county tear down the
apartments at the center of the marina
and replace them with parks.
They said more apartments could
be built around the marina to replace
the destroyed units.
“We desperately need parks,”
said John Rizzo, president of the
group. ‘We do not need more development
in Los Angeles County’.”
“But the tenant’s proposal got
scant attention from county planners
during their hearings.
“ “I don’t think it was viewed
here that demolitions were the appropriate
route to take,’ Cowardin,
said. ‘Our premise was that the marina
would work the way it works
now (but) with increased density’.”
Rainey’s article continues,
“Some residents said that if the
county is not going to convert the
property to public uses that it
should take over operation of apartments
“ ‘It was all supposed to go
back to the county at the end of the
leases,’ said LaVaun Vawter, a
banker and member of the tenants
“ ‘That’s the mystery to me. In
another 40 years (the county) could
have gotten 100 percent. My rent
check could have gone to the county
instead of (my landlord). I consider
this a very large giveaway of
“But county officials, including
Dana, said most of the buildings
will be badly worn and of little
value at the end of leases. ‘What
we would end up with at the end of
45 years is a bunch of buildings
that need to be torn down and rebuilt,
The Times article continues, “Instead,
the county is renegotiating
leases to get a higher percentage of
the revenue than the current 3 percent
from restaurants, 7 ½ percent
from apartments and 20 percent
from boat slips. Renegotiations
combined with the recently approved
lifting of controls on apartment
and boat slip prices should
add ‘several million dollars’ to the
county’s share of marina rents,
“The supervisor said the county
cannot afford to give up the $11.4
million share of rents it collected in
the last fiscal year, which allowed
the Department of Beaches and
Harbors to operate without any
money from the county’s general
fund. ‘The marina is an asset to the
county,’ Dana said. ‘We have to get
that money somewhere’.”
“The condominium proposal is
designed to maximize the county’s
return in the marina, according to
the county task force that wrote it.
If approved by the supervisors
Tuesday, the proposal would allow
owners of the Marina City Club
and the Kingswood Village apartment
buildings to negotiate for extensions
of their leases for up to 99
years. Owners of the two buildings,
which have a total of 830 units,
said the long leases would be a
strong selling point,” according to
the Times article.
“The county will receive a large
conversion fee for each condominium,
backers of the plan said,
adding that up-front payments are
worth more than long-term rent.
“But critics say the condominium
plan will dedicate public land
to private uses for far too long.
“Former Coastal Commission
staff member Jim Hirsch said that
the county ‘is backsliding into
quasi-privateness that will open the
door …to it becoming totally private.
I can see that happening more
easily with 99-year leases’.”
The Times article continues, “A
recommendation against condominiums
was discussed by the
Coastal Commission, Hirsch said,
but no such provision was written
into the final draft of the land-use
Some tenants said they are worried
that the condominium idea will
spread to other marina apartments.
The 1981 grand jury said one condominium
might ‘open the floodgates’
for others. Prices as high as
$300,000 would make the marina
‘a playground for the very rich; all
others would be priced out,’ the
“But county officials say that
condominium conversions will not
come automatically because each
building is covered by a lease that
would have to be renegotiated separately.
“County planner Cowardin said
hotel rooms will be used to improve
public use of the marina. The
land-use plan calls for 1,841 new
“ ‘There is a tremendous need
for hotel rooms in that area,’ Dana
said. ‘The Coastal Commission
wants to open the marina for more
people and hotels are one of the
prime things that they look for’”
stated the Times article.
“But if room prices at marina
hotels are an indication of what the
new rooms will cost, many residents
of the county will not be able
to afford them. Rooms at two marina
hotels start at about $80 a night
and many cost more than $100,”
the Times article stated.
Note: The Marina del Rey Historical
Society is compiling memorabilia
for its collection. If you
have photos, documents, or any
special memory of the Marina you
would like to share, please contact
the society at (310) 578-1001, or