A Marina del Rey boating group spoke out against the proposed amendment to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) for six “pipeline” projects at a meeting Aug. 24, arguing that it changes the nature and intent of the plan.

In addition, members of the Marina del Rey Boating Council alleged to county officials that the amendment violates the California Coastal Act. The boating council consists of the Marina del Rey Outrigger Canoe Club (MDROCC); the Los Angeles Rowing Club (LARC); the Fairwinds Yacht Club (FWYC); and the United Marina Rowing Association (UMRA).

Steven Cho and Chris King, president of the Outrigger Canoe Club, and Barry Fisher, vice president of the L.A. Rowing Club, gave a presentation at the meeting and provided information regarding their concerns about recreational use of the Marina to county officials. These boaters said that a needs assessment and use patterns study of Mothers Beach is necessary before making major land use changes, especially with the proposed change from parking to residential.

Mothers Beach is an endangered resource for Los Angeles and its environs and is the only protected beach with launch access for personal watercraft in Los Angeles proper serving approximately 100 miles of coastline and inland communities, said the boaters’ representatives. Public parking for recreational boat use is protected in the LCP and access to recreational boating is a priority use in the coastal plan, they said.

The representatives continued, “The development around Mothers Beach shows a lack of planning, and analysis, and a subjugation to developer needs and interest placed before public interest. This is a conflict of interest that the county faces in its position as both a lessor and a guardian of the public welfare. So far the county has shown only to act as an expediter to development interests and not adequately study the impact on public use.”

They alleged, “Based on the time lines of the projects, it is apparent that many of the decisions were already made prior to any studies showing impacts from major changes to the land use plan. The pipeline projects constitute a major redesign of Marina del Rey, and the push for these amendments prior to compliance to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) constitute an end run around the Coastal Act, possibly illegal based on recent court cases.”

Parking lots are currently protected from development, said Cho. The primary parking lot servicing Mothers Beach is on Parcel NR, where the proposed Waterfront development would be constructed on Parcel 33.

The six pipeline projects are:

Parcels 52/GG for dry stack storage at Fiji Way;

Parcels 49/77 for several alternative proposals: commercial and visitor-serving or mixed-use and/or a new administration building for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors;

Parcels 9U/10/FF for a 19-story hotel and timeshare with a wetland park on the southern half of the parcel, and 526 apartment units and anchorage replacement plus parking replacement at Admiralty and Marquesas ways;

Parcels 33/NR for a mixed-use project (The Waterfront) with apartments, restaurants and retail at Admiralty Way (formerly Edie’s Diner/Harbor House, currently Organic Panificio);

Parcel OT for a senior retirement facility at Washington Boulevard near Palawan Way; and

Parcel IR, a proposed Marriott Residence Inn at Mothers Beach with replacement of public parking on and off-site. The project was withdrawn by the developer in 2009.

The respective member groups of the Marina del Rey Community Boating Council said they “vigorously dispute” many of the major amendments to the Local Coastal Program, especially as it relates to the developments around Mothers Beach.

“The amendments show a lack of understanding of the use patterns of Mothers Beach, and its unique role as an access point for low-cost recreational boating in Los Angeles County,” the groups said.

The boaters alleged, “The major amendments violate the Coastal Act and threaten access for recreational boaters to Mothers Beach.”

“The parking study commissioned did not fully capture the concentrated parking demand in the recreational boating area of Mothers Beach. The proposed developments take away parking in the areas that require the most, and shift it to areas that are unnecessary,” they said.

Cho told The Argonaut, “The county should have the public interest in mind in its decisions. Included in that is the capacity of the public parking lots to accommodate future growth, and not base it solely on current usage.” He noted that it would have been difficult to anticipate the large growth in the sport of stand-up paddleboarding, which was an unknown sport four years ago, but is now one of the fastest growing segments of the surf and paddling industry. Stand-up paddleboarders use Mothers Beach as a launch point.

“The capacity to expand the groups using Mothers Beach should be encouraged, not capped, since they are a low-cost point for recreational boating, which is supposed to be the point for the beach. Parking is one way that it will be capped in the future,” said Cho.

“There are numerous recreational boating groups and the Boys & Girls Club of Venice, Kayaks4Kidz, and Boy Scouts that use Mothers Beach as a primary launch point and these groups have been active participants in the Marina since its inception.”

Cho said that the stakeholders of Mothers Beach are a cross section of all the elements that the LCP seeks to encourage: community, low cost, recreational boating, youth programs and disadvantaged youths.

“As a calm, easy access location for small recreational boats, there is nothing similar to Mothers Beach between Ventura and San Pedro. It is a unique resource that needs to be protected,” he pointed out.

Cho cites a recent ruling by the California Supreme Court, “Save Tara.” The ruling was that approvals by governing bodies require environmental impact studies and CEQA compliance, not just when “permits” are issued. Cho said that the impact of this ruling is clear in any of the recent LCP amendment hearings where, at the beginning of the meetings, county counsel gave a disclaimer, explicitly stating that “the presentations are not approvals in any form.”

Assessing the needs and use patterns at Mothers Beach before making major land use changes from parking to residential requires asking questions, Cho said.

Cho claimed that any study would show that the beach has distinctive zones of activity, and that the north portion of the beach is critical for recreational boating.

The boaters’ documentation alleges, “Raju and Associates conducted a Right-Sized Parking Study (June 2010), which made a critical and flawed assumption — combining four lots around Mothers Beach as an ‘Activity Area’, and assuming that parking for all four lots was interchangeable. The study also fails to adequately study the parking activity of Lot NR, which is important because NR is critical to recreational boating and is slated for a change of use.”

The boaters’ documentation claims, “As flawed as the parking study is, it shows that the demand for parking in NR is projected to be 151 spaces in peak times, with 186 spaces currently existing. This precludes a change of zoning of the parcel since the parking lot has parking demand.”

Cho said, “All evidence points to the necessity of maintaining NR as a parking lot, and the data from the recent study supports it. At a minimum, it requires further and incisive analysis of use patterns before making such a critical change of use.

“The fact that the requirements for the proposed development have not changed despite the new data showing parking demand prove that the county has already made decisions of use and development prior to any study being completed,” he alleged.

The boaters’ documentation raised the issue about the “Marina del Rey Design Control Board repeatedly raising serious questions about the Waterfront project. When opposition to the project was mounting, the Waterfront project was added to the other pipeline projects, although it had not submitted any application up to that period and it was not in the approval process,” they claimed.

“The LCP amendment approval would mean the Waterfront project won’t have to specifically go before the Coastal Commission even though it is a major change of use of a critical parking lot serving recreational boating. This circumvents the Coastal Act,” the boaters alleged.

Some of the needs of Mothers Beach users are parking proximity (time, gear); parking affordability (frequency); beach access (safety, ease of launching, loading/unloading, family friendly; vehicle accommodations and storage (personal water craft), said Cho.

Some concerns include loss of current parking; underground garages (elevators, vehicle/PWC height issues); remote parking/water taxis/buses/shuttles; no unloading areas; and lessees and tenants upset with noise/congestion/parking issues, he said.

Fisher said that in addition to the boating groups, he also speaks for the “hundreds of citizens who individually cart their kayaks, canoes, sculls, stand-up paddle boats, small fishing craft and other small boats and launch them at this county’s unique boat access point.”

Fisher stated that some of the additional groups utilizing the area include MdR Anglers Fishing Club and youth groups such as the LAPD Explorers, Santa Monica Police Activities League, and the Beaches and Harbors summer kayak camp.

David Barish and Nancy Vernon Marino, co-directors of We ARE Marina del Rey, told The Argonaut that their concern is “That the county keeps saying that the LCP ‘contemplates these changes’ and that it contemplates a potential conversion to three parking lots — Parcels FF, OT and 52 for residential use.”

Vernon-Marino and Barish claimed that “when the roadmap/pipeline projects were approved last year, they didn’t approve all of these other amendments to the LCP, and they’re not authorized to make these changes.”

Another of their concerns was the apparent removal of parking lots in the new Marina del Rey Land Use Plan distributed at the meetings. Vernon Marino claimed the parking lot (UR) next to the Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library is missing from the documentation and no public hearings were held to discuss it.

“They also strike out a policy in the LCP documentation that states that all existing public parking lots shall be used for only a park or public parking,” Vernon Marino said.

Both boater and public parking spaces have been eliminated, she claimed.

Charlotte Miyamoto of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors Planning Department told The Argonaut, “In general, the parking and boat slip issues were areas the Coastal Commission wanted the county to consider back in June 2009 as part of the “roadmap” approach to batching the LCP amendments required for the pipeline projects.

“With regards to parking, and the concern of some members of the public that there was no public input about the pipeline project referred to as Parcels 33 and NR: while the Parcels 33 and NR project is not as far along as some of the other pipeline projects (Parcels 10/FF or OT — both of which have been approved by the Regional Planning Commission), the Parcel NR portion (public parking lot) was the subject of a Request for Proposals, as was the project for Parcels 49 and 77),” she said.

“In addition, prior to any project being built on the Parcel NR lot, approvals would have to be obtained from the Regional Planning Commission, the Board of Supervisors, and the Coastal Commission. At every step along that process, the public would have the opportunity to provide input,” said Miyamoto.

“The LCP amendment also covers planning issues such as the development of conservation and management policies for the Marina’s biological resources and the enhancement of open space, both of which were directed to be done by the Board of Supervisors.”

The Marina del Rey Community Boating Council documentation is available online at:

www.marinaoutrigger.org/forms/MDRCBC_LCPA_presentation.pdf/ and

www.marinaoutrigger.org/forum/index.php?board=81.0 /.