A rally to protest plans to build an extended-stay Marriott hotel near Mothers Beach drew over 100 people to Marina del Rey on Saturday, October 6th.

Marina Beach, known to many locals as Mothers Beach, was the focal point of the gathering, where approximately 30 concerned residents participated in a march around Marina del Rey, carrying signs that displayed their displeasure at the county’s plans to construct new high-rises on several of the area’s parking lots.

The principal object of their concern was plans by Los Angeles County officials to allow the removal of picnic tables and a parking lot behind Mothers Beach, near the intersection of Admiralty Way and Via Marina, that beachgoers have enjoyed and utilized for decades in order to build the hotel.

Four of five current Marina del Rey parking lots in the area have been designated for development projects that many who attended the rally say are robbing the coastal enclave of its beauty and recreational uses.

We ARE Marina del Rey, an organization that, according to its Web site (www.wearemdr.com), seeks to “increase awareness of mushrooming private development the county is soliciting on publicly-owned land intended for public recreation,” is calling for a master plan for new high-rises and condominiums that are in the process of being evaluated for construction in the Marina.

County officials state that the Local Coastal Plan is sufficient as a guidepost to the area’s redevelopment, a contention that anti-development residents decry as false.

Mieka Tanney, who participated in the demonstration, is dismayed at county officials’ decision to build another hotel on the parking lot and the picnic area.

“What’s happening is, by cementing the place over and building luxury hotel establishments, a dead zone for rich people is being created, and opportunities for those who are not rich are being taken away,” Tanney asserted.

George Adler, who attended the rally, is not in favor of the planned developments because he feels they are in violation of the original purpose of the Marina.

“This is supposed to be a recreational area, and now it’s being turned into a commercial area,” he said. “I’m also concerned about the number of automobiles and people that these developments will attract to the area, which could lead to overcrowding.”

David Barish, who recently moved to Bar Harbor Apartments in Marina del Rey from New York with his wife Ina, was moved to become a part of We ARE Marina del Rey after learning of the county’s plans to eliminate parking and other recreational outlets and permit devel- opers to build large-scale projects.

“We’re shocked at what the county is doing in terms of piecemeal development without the proper environmental impact studies and traffic congestion studies,” he said. “The Marina was made for the public, and what they’re doing is putting aside all of the recreation as a side thought to all of the commercial development of hotels and apartments.

“It’s not looking at the overall impact that this will have on the Marina, and it’s really important that they do that.”

However, Dusty Crane, the division chief for Community and Marketing Services for the County Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the proposed hotel would not eliminate the picnic tables at Mothers Beach.

“The picnic area will be relocated and spread throughout the area, which will make it much more park-like,” she said. “After the next phase of development is completed, Marina Beach will still have the same amenities and facilities.”

Regarding the proposed Marriott hotel, Crane said that it would not extend to the beach, as many protesters claimed.

“Like the other hotels that are in the area of Marina Beach, like the Jamaica Bay Inn, it will have its own parcel,” she said. “It will not infringe on public access to the beach.”

For residents like Barish, the transplanted New Yorker, the protest was also about losing certain pleasures that those who live near the beach often describe as ancillary benefits of coastal living.

“[The county] is getting rid of the view corridors that you see when you drive up and down the fingers of the Marina,” he said. “You see the beautiful views of Mothers Beach and of the mountains, and now they’re packing in the high-density buildings onto the fingers, so you lose the views of the sun and the ocean.”

County officials have stated that in addition to providing recreational opportunities to county residents, they must also maximize revenues in the Marina, which are in turn used to fund a variety of county programs in and outside Marina del Rey.

Barish agrees that revenue generated in the Marina that pays for other programs throughout the county is good policy.

“I won’t argue with that,” he conceded. “But you still have to build and develop appropriately, and [the Department of] Beaches and Harbors is not in charge of maximizing revenue. That’s not their mandate. Maybe that’s their new mandate from the Board of Supervisors, but that’s not what they’re here for.”

Crane said that her department does its best to maintain the facilities and beaches in the Marina within the resources that it has.

“We are the stewards of Los Angeles County and Marina del Rey, and even with budgetary restraints on our resources, we try to apply them widely, especially in public areas,” Crane explained.

One area that the Department of Beaches and Harbors will be working to enhance will be swimming and boating opportunities over the next few months.

“We are doing a lot of research into improving the water quality of Marina Beach,” Crane said.

Tanney thinks that the supervisors should be pressured to take action on what some feel is the dissipation of recreational resources in the Marina.

“People should go directly to [the supervisors] and lobby them, and make them understand that there is more to this community than just big bucks,” Tanney suggested.

In addition to the march, those who attended the rally took part in beach games, and a children’s essay contest titled “Why I Love Mothers Beach” was held.

Members of We ARE Marina del Rey planned to present their grievances at the meeting of the California Coastal Commission that was scheduled to be held on Wednesday, October 10th, at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel in San Pedro.