A Courtyard by Marriott and Marriott Residence Inn will break ground on Via Marina as early as summer

By Gary Walker

The Los Angeles County Design Control Board has approved final design changes for a new hotel complex and adjacent wetlands park in Marina del Rey, bringing closure to a nearly 20-year development process slowed by multiple lawsuits and design changes.

The board approved the last round of design changes for the five-story, 159-room Courtyard by Marriott and six-story, 129-room Marriott Residence Inn during an April 26 special meeting at the Burton Chace Park Community Room. This was the final hurdle that San Diego-based developers The Hardage Group had to overcome before starting construction.

“We’re feeling really good about the commission’s vote today. It’s been a really, really long journey,” said Samuel Hardage, the company’s CEO and founder. “This is going to be a terrific project for Los Angeles, for Marina del Rey and for the thousands of people who will come over the years to enjoy the marina and stay the night and experience this wonderful climate.”

The two hotels going on Via Marina near Tahiti Way will measure 12,000 square feet and be connected by a single-story ground level with 19 surface-level parking spaces and 212 subterranean parking spaces. The structures will be adjacent to a 1.46-acre wetlands park with 21 public parking spaces.

Hardage said he anticipates that construction work will begin this summer but is still developing a timeline for completion.

Planned hotel amenities include a public seafront promenade, waterfront restaurant and bar, meeting rooms, an outdoor dining terrace and a fitness center.

This isn’t the first time county bodies have greenlighted the project through various design iterations. The Design Control Board approved a conceptual design for a timeshare resort and hotel in 2004, but the project shifted to a massive 19-story hotel two years later. The board greenlighted a design for the public promenade in 2009, and the following year the Regional Planning Commission gave its approval.

The project was redesigned once again in 2014 following a public appeal against its proposed height. The current iteration survived appeals to Regional Planning, the Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission.

Changes approved last month included expanding a rooftop terrace toward Via Marina to extend it over surface-level parking spots and eliminating a different portion of rooftop that protruded from the structure. The swimming pool will be moved off the roof, and the service vehicle loading area has also been reconfigured.

Despite earlier community rancor over the size and scope of the project and even the environmental integrity of the wetlands park, no one spoke publicly against the new design concept.

The only public speaker was Yelena Zeltser of the union Unite Here Local 11.

“The developer has committed to providing good service jobs at the hotels, so we support this project,” she said.

L.A. County Design Board member Jerome Stanley complimented Hardage on his persistence during nearly two decades of appeals and delays.

“I’m impressed that any developer can ride with a project for so long and still bring it forward,” Stanley said. “I’m very comfortable with the new changes.”

Hardage said there was never any point at which he’d lost hope, though he did acknowledge that some of the county bureaucracy was time-consuming. Hardage also commented that he was at times discouraged by information disseminated by anti-growth activists that he didn’t feel was accurate.

“When people come and protest and they have a good suggestion to make a project better, that’s fine. But when people come and protest and they’re not always using facts, then I don’t think the public is served by that,” he said.