A group of Marina del Rey residents rallied near the intersection of Via Marina and Marquesas Way Oct. 1 to protest what they claim is a breach of a land use agreement that calls for the construction of a public park at the protest site.
“This is a violation of public trust and we want our park,” said Carla Andrus, a resident of the Marina who organized the rally.
Andrus and her supporters claim county officials and the California Coastal Commission are attempting to skirt provisions in a 1996 Marina land use plan by allowing the construction of residential units at Parking Lot 12, the site of the Oct. 1 protest. They allege that building park space is outlined in the land use document.
“They (the commission and the county) have been passing this around like a hot potato,” Andrus stated.
Kerry Silverstrom, chief deputy director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said her department is aware that residents of the coastal community would like to have a park on the western side of the Marina. But she denied that there is a plan to back out of creating open space.
Silverstrom said the county plans to build the park a few blocks away at Tahiti Way and Via Marina, as well as other beachside amenities.
“Parcel FF (the Marquesas Way location) has been designated for open space,” she confirmed. “But we feel that Parcel 9U (the Tahiti Way location) is a much superior location for open space, transient boat slips and a public wetland because of the water basin there.
“Parcel FF is landlocked,” Silverstrom noted. “There, you’re looking at property or the street.”
Beaches and Harbors is planning to ask the Coastal Commission for amendments to have the park and the other amenities built at the Parcel 9U site at its November meeting in Oceanside.
The department will be requesting amendments to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) as well as coastal development permits to build a 19-story, 288-room hotel and timeshare resort, a parking structure and the public wetland.
The county Board of Supervisors voted to allow Marina del Rey parking lots to be developed into apartment units, restaurants and retail space Feb.1.
Slow-growth proponents in the Marina decried the unanimous vote as proof positive that county authorities are determined to sell out to the highest bidder and reduce the small amount of open space that exists.
Prior to the vote, parking lots were not subject to development under the LCP. According to the Coastal Commission’s website, LCPs are basic planning tools used by local governments to guide development in the coastal zone, in partnership with the Coastal Commission.
LCPs contain the ground rules for future development and protection of coastal resources in the state’s 75 coastal cities and counties. Following adoption by a city council or county board of supervisors, an LCP is submitted to the Coastal Commission for review for consistency with California Coastal Act requirements.
Developer Legacy Partners plans to upgrade the nearby Neptune Apartments and build 126 residential units on Parcel FF.
Andrus and her supporters are calling on the Coastal Commission to uphold the Coastal Act and the previsions of the 1996 land use plan by rejecting all provisions of the amendment that Beaches and Harbors is seeking that would allow development on parking lots.
Silverstrom said there are fiscal as well as practical reasons behind the decision to build the park at the Tahiti Way location.
“It’s a far superior site because of the potential amenities as well as its proximity to the water basin,” she reiterated.
In addition, the county would be responsible for the cost of building the park if it were constructed at the Marquesas Way site, she said. Beaches and Harbors officials have several other projects earmarked that they are involved with and the expenditure of a park is not in their plans.
“If we built it there, there’s no telling when the park would get built,” the department’s chief deputy said.
The developers for the two locations have agreed to contribute funds to build the park at Parcel 9U, which also makes the site a more preferable location, Silverstrom added.
Marina Lessees Association President David Levine said his organization backs the county’s plan for Parcel 9U.
“It makes sense for the county to pursue development on underutilized lots while preserving public use spaces that can be used for parking and access to open spaces and recreation,” Levine told The Argonaut. “Not all parking lots are created equal.”
We ARE Marina del Rey, a local residents group that says its mission is to save the Marina from overdevelopment, has challenged the legality of the amendment including the proposed hotel and wetland, and has accused the county of piecemealing developments.
Piecemealing is a legal definition under the California Environmental Quality Act, defined in the landmark environmental statute as the improper separation of a project into smaller parts in order to avoid environmental analysis.
Silverstrom said the county’s plan to build the park at the Parcel 9U location should not come as a surprise to those who are active Marina participants and observers of the ongoing developments.
“It has been a part of the public discussion and well known in public forums,” she said. “We have heard that there are people who want a park on that side of the Marina, but we think that Parcel 9U is a superior location.”
Cheryl Burnett, Fourth District Supervisor Don Knabe’s spokeswoman, concurred with Silverstrom regarding the importance of the developer paying for the park as opposed to the county, as well as the maintenance of the proposed wetland.
“Supervisor Knabe has been a strong supporter of open space and is looking for other opportunities for public park areas (in the Marina),” Burnett told The Argonaut.
The protesters are also requesting that the commission allow the state Legislature to decide whether Parcel FF should be developed. Marina del Rey’s state representatives are state Sen. Ted Lieu and Assemblywoman Betsy Butler.
“We deserve our park and the law requires it,” said Andrus.
Coastal Commission representatives did not return calls for comment.