By Gary Walker
Los Angeles County planners are seeking input from residents of Marina del Rey and throughout the county to craft a new concept of the Marina that would focus on development, traffic flow and recreation, among other things.
An audience of approximately 100 alternately listened, questioned and chastised members of the county Department of Regional Planning during a nearly two-hour informational session April 25 that served as the kickoff of a summer-long process that county officials say could possibly lead to updates of the Local Coastal Program (LCP).
Los Angeles County Section Head of Planning Gina Natoli explained the county’s plan to include suggestions from Marina del Rey businesses and residents, as well as visitors to the beach enclave from other parts of the county to develop a future vision of what the Marina might look like over the next few decades.
“One of the things that we will be looking at is (are the current plans) the right mix for Marina del Rey,” Natoli told the audience.
The consulting firm of MIG has been selected to assist with the initiative.
Over the next several weeks, county planners will be scheduling a workshop and a walking tour of the Marina to solicit and gather suggestions from the public. They also will disseminate the visioning process to residents who live farther inland via Twitter, email and other forms of social media.
Fourth District County Supervisor Don Knabe has his own thoughts on what the Marina could look like in the future.
“Having a new boardwalk to make the Marina more accessible for pedestrians, bicycles and motor-powered scooters would be a great addition,” said the supervisor, who represents Marina del Rey. “I want it to be friendlier to those who live in the neighborhood as well as those who visit the Marina.”
In an interview after his March 15 “State of the Marina” address last year, the supervisor said he would like to see a boardwalk and electric cars someday in Marina del Rey that he says would work well in a pedestrian-oriented community.
Natoli said the visioning process was designed in large part to develop what she called “guiding principles for Marina del Rey planning” during the public discussions.
Department of Beaches and Harbors Deputy Director Gary Jones called Regional Planning’s presentation “professional, clear and concise,” and said his department will collaborate with Natoli’s agency throughout the summer on the visioning initiative.
“I was also pleased that there was a good turnout,” Jones said. “I thought Regional Planning and the consultant that was selected gave a clear outline of the process and what will transpire over the next several months.”
Historically, opposition to development, coupled with accusations of the wanton destruction of public space, “giveaways” of county-owned land to wealthy developers and the elimination of boat slips in order to attract larger vessels at the expense of middle class residents have been the constant battle cry from a group of local residents at county planning sessions, and the April 25 meeting was no different.
Andrew Bessette, the president of the Marina Boaters Association, accused county officials of employing consulting firms over the past decade at taxpayers’ expense to take away thousands of boat slips in the Marina for the benefit of land developers.
“Why should we think this is going to be any different?” he asked.
Other critics mentioned past developments that they disagreed with and received applause from some members of the audience when they accused Natoli and other authorities of deciding on land use and development policy without considering their ideas.
Natoli said county officials planned the meeting to solicit input and pledged not to do anything without inviting public participation.
“It is our absolute intention to make sure that this process is transparent,” she said.
Venice resident DeDe Audet said county authorities should extend their outreach to neighborhood councils as well. “I think they would like to know that you’re interested in them and I bet they would want to participate,” said Audet, a former Venice Neighborhood Council president.
Marina del Rey Lessees Association President David Levine said his association will be active in participating in discussions about the Marina’s future.
“Our lessees have a long history of community participation and we look forward to working with the Department of Regional Planning to create a vision of Marina del Rey for the 21st century,” he said.
Knabe said he hoped his constituents who expressed disdain for past projects and local decisions would take part in the invitation to express their thoughts about the future of the manmade harbor and its restaurants and recreational sites.
“There will always be naysayers to anything,” he said. “This is probably the best opportunity that the public will have to participate in the planning of Marina del Rey for the next 40 years and I hope that we get some really good ideas.”
Natoli said the Marina visioning process is slated to conclude in mid-September. The recommendations would then go to Regional Planning next spring and to the county Board of Supervisors in late summer or the fall of 2014.