The Marina del Rey Lessees Association has sent a letter to County Supervisor Don Knabe, opposing the proposed Waterfront mixed-use project at Admiralty Way and Palawan Way that would encompass the Harbor House, Edie’s Diner and an adjacent parking lot.

During a County Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting Thursday, July 9th, Stan Wisniewski, Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors Department director, disclosed information about the letter, and said a rebuttal letter by the proposed developer — Waterfront-Marina del Rey, LLC — had also been sent to Knabe.

Lessees Association president David O. Levine and lessees association executive director Tim Riley said in their letter to Knabe that they had taken an “unprecedented step” in writing to Knabe after 15 years of working with the Department of Beaches and Harbors because they had voiced their concerns six months earlier to that department and County Regional Planning Department officials and felt their views hadn’t received consideration.

Waterfront-Marina del Rey, LLC is the developer that received conceptual support for a proposed mixed-use-development for these same parcels from the County Marina del Rey Design Control Board at a prior meeting.

The letter of rebuttal sent to Knabe by Edward Czuker, president of Waterfront-Marina del Rey, LLC, alleged that “fear of competition” by the lessees association was the rationale for opposing the project.

The Levine and Riley letter stated that opposition to the mixed-use project is based on “its massive scope and negative implications for redevelopment of surrounding parcels.”

The lessees association letter expressed “shock and concern” that the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors is promoting the redevelopment of Parcels 33 — which contains the Harbor House Restaurant and Edie’s Diner — and Parcel NR — which contains a county-owned parking lot.

The Levine and Riley letter stated that the “Department of Beaches and Harbors has promoted other behemoth ‘catalytic’ projects which have failed because of aggressive overreaching beyond the parameters of the certified LCP (local coastal plan) and the county’s own asset management strategy.”

PROPOSED WATERFRONT PROJECT— The proposed Waterfront project would demolish Harbor House Restaurant and Edie’s Diner at Admiralty Way east of Palawan Way, and replace the buildings with 292 apartment units in an eight-story building and a four-story building, according to Waterfront documents.

As part of the project, an additional 125 apartments would be developed in three four-story buildings built on the adjoining county parking lot on Palawan Way.

The project is considered to be mixed-use, with retail stores on the ground floor of some of the buildings and a public viewing deck on the roof of the medium-height building.

The Levine and Riley letter alleges that the Waterfront project proposes an eight-story, 85-foot high building on the water, 292 apartment units and 30,400 square feet of office space.

LESSEES ASSOCIATION — The lessees association letter also claims that the height of the project would impact views for adjacent hotels such as the Marina del Rey International, the Marina del Rey Marriott and the Jamaica Bay Inn.

The lessees association letter states that the association represents the cross-section of active leasehold businesses in the Marina, and the association encourages the county to pursue parcel redevelopments that stimulate additional visitor-serving activities, such as terraced outdoor cafÈs, bistros and specialty retail, and limited commercial boating, such as sunset cruises.

“These parcels should complement and leverage the existing and proposed visitor-serving uses in the Mothers Beach area, and nighttime pedestrian activity,” the lessees association letter says.

The Marina needs this kind of activity to attract the overnight visitors who have gravitated to the shopping and dining districts of Santa Monica and Venice, the lessees association says.

CZUKER’S RESPONSE — Waterfront president states that the RFP (request for proposal) released in mid-2003 by the Beaches and Harbors Department contemplated a mixed-use project because “the county understood that no pure retail project was or is financially feasible for the parking lot parcel.”

All four responses to the RFP offered a mixed-use project, and “(the Beaches and Harbors Department) made certain all responders understood that an (amendment to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program) and California Coastal Commission approval of the project would be required,” said Czuker.

Czuker said his organization has offered to meet with the lessees association and all other interested parties, and that the lessees association never voiced opposition to the project when the proposal was before both the Small Craft Harbor Commission and the Marina del Rey Design Control Board.

Czuker asserts that the ground-level elements of the project are virtually all visitor-serving uses, restaurants, retail and a service office to be used for back office support of the restaurant, retail and apartment uses of the project, and for other small business visitor-serving uses.

The Waterfront-Marina project is entirely consistent with county goals of enlivening the Marina area, Czuker claimed.