With the expiration of Albert Landini, Jr.’s term on the Los Angeles County Small Craft Harbor Commission this past September, and the continued unexcused absences of Commissioner Albert DeBlanc, Jr., the board began this year’s first meeting January 13th with only three members; Russ Lesser, Vanessa Delgado and Dennis Alfieri.

Landini, who was appointed by county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky of the Third District, decided not to pursue another term with the commission. DeBlanc, Jr. was appointed by former Second District Supervisor Yvonne Burke in February 2008, but attended meetings only a few times.

Following the retirement of Burke, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was elected in November 2008, has yet to appoint anyone to this commission.

At the January 13th meeting, commission chair Lesser asked county officials for an update on the status of the two vacant positions. Santos Kreimann, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, replied, “We continue to work with the Board of Supervisors on that subject.”

During public comment Marina boater Jon Nahhas said he had contacted Ridley-Thomas’ office about the problem as well as Yaroslavsky. Nahhas said he felt that it was part of this commission’s responsibility to send a letter to Ridley-Thomas regarding making an appointment.

Lesser said he didn’t know how much clout the commission would have in writing a letter.

“When was the last time we saw a representative from the Second District at this commission?” asked Nahhas.

“This is a serious problem, and we haven’t seen anyone for all of 2009. It’s been one-and-a-half years with no representation.

“Three commission members opposed to five is a major problem.”

As if to clarify the issue, the commission voted on the chair and vice chair positions for the new term, and Lesser chose to vote for himself to continue his term as chair of the commission.

A waiver of the bylaws was necessary to have Lesser continue another term as chair, while Delgado continues to be vice-chair.

County counsel Tom Faughnan told Lesser that the commission can waive any bylaws at its option.

Nahhas said he wants to see “gender bias” terminology in the bylaws removed, such as “chairman” and the reference to “he/his.” He suggested that the terminology should be chairperson and refer to “his/her decision.”

“There are a lot of things going on in the Marina, and we want to see public hearings on these issues,” Nahhas said. “This commission should set forth a vacancy rate public hearing to bring people back to the harbor. This isn’t just due to the economy, it started before that. The 50 to 70 percent increase (in slip fees) is being ignored.”

Resident Carla Andrus said she stopped coming to meetings because it was extremely frustrating and they weren’t living up to public expectation. She suggested they spend time bringing people back to the Marina.

“Having a study about parking lots and how they can be converted to development sites. You’re all extremely interested in that,” she said.

“What about the alternatives we’ve talked to you about, like a farmers market in the interim to show that we can get interest in the Marina for the public? This wasn’t built for this ‘development circus’ that we’re seeing.”

Lesser said he thinks that the Marina is in good shape. “There are problems with the economy, but I don’t believe it’s this commission’s role to be a marketing committee,” he said.

“Our role is to do exactly what we’ve been doing. Try to ensure we get good quality developments and revitalize this community, which definitely needs revitalization.”

In response to questions during public comment, Kreimann said the department still welcomes individuals for events such as the art show or a farmers market in the parking lot, but that some prospective vendors have declined to rent the space due to their economic situations.

Mike Tripp of the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning said that if the parking lot were to be used as a farmers market, an amendment to the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Program (LCP) would be required.

Kreimann said that proposal would be quite an expense, and added that an amendment would need to be “piggybacked” onto another amendment that was already in progress, such as the county’s text amendment for the six pipeline projects.

Kreimann said he would have to work with Regional Planning, and Tripp noted a simple sentence could be added to the document to allow use of the parking lot for a farmers market. Lesser, Delgado and Alfieri voted to recommend such an amendment.

Tripp outlined plans for parking and development for six pipeline projects that will receive an aggregate amendment as suggested by the California Coastal Commission.

Although the amendment will cover all six projects, each project will stand alone in the entitlement process and be heard individually by the Regional Planning Commission.

Tripp’s Presentation —

Parcel FF currently has 206 parking spaces. The applicant proposes to build a 126-unit apartment complex, and to pay an in-lieu fee to have 103 parking spaces replaced at another location.

The preferred location to replace these spaces would be at Burton Chace Park. Parcel FF is related to a project on Parcel 10R, which proposes to demolish a 136-unit apartment complex and construct a new 400-unit complex.

On Parcel IR, directly behind Mothers (Marina) Beach, Beaches and Harbors originally planned a hotel, but the applicant has withdrawn, said Tripp. He said that the type of use for Parcel IR hasn’t been determined, so there will be no change at this moment regarding an amendment.

Parcel NR is a 187-space parking lot on Palawan Way, which currently serves Mothers Beach. A proposal would develop the site along with an adjoining visitor-serving parcel, Parcel 33, as a mixed-use complex.

The applicant is requesting to maintain 69 public spaces onsite, and to eliminate 118 spaces. The project has not yet come before Regional Planning.

Parcel OT has a 186-space public parking lot, and 92 spaces would remain on Parcel OT, with 94 spaces placed on Parcel 21 near Mothers Beach.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was issued for Parcel 49 by Beaches and Harbors. The 49M site is currently developed with 152 public spaces and is used for overflow parking for Chace Park.

The proposal for Parcel 49R on Admiralty Way (the location of the public boat launch ramp), currently has 234 spaces for vehicles with boat trailers.

The RFP for this site, which is for 116,000 square feet of visitor serving uses and 26,000 square feet for the Beaches and Harbors administration building, would possibly also have 205 residential units. The proposal requires that all public parking spaces remain onsite, said Tripp.

Parcel 52 is currently a 236 space public parking lot. An application proposes the use of this parcel and an adjoining county facility, Parcel GG, to be developed into a 345-space dry stack storage facility, with another 30 spaces conserved for mast-up storage.

The parking spaces for this lot are proposed to be transferred to Fisherman’s Village on Fiji Way.

Since some of the projects impact public parking in the Marina, Beaches and Harbors has commissioned a parking study to identify if the appropriate parking supply is satisfactory with current and anticipated beach parking demands and to determine the right-sizing of the parking lots serving various activity areas, Tripp said.

There are 13 public lots in the Marina, and the study identified five major activity areas within the lots — Mothers Beach, Yvonne Burke Park, Chace Park, and the North Channel.

The study showed an oversupply of parking areas within the Marina and the activity areas, and recommends a lower minimum parking supply than what currently exists, said Tripp.

Tripp said that the goal of Regional Planning is to present a compound plan amendment for those projects to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors by November and to the Coastal Commission by 2011.

Fisherman’s Village, which currently has over 700 parking spaces, would have 1,012 spaces once the area is redeveloped.

During public comment, Andrus said that according to the land use plan, the parking lots are to be considered for parks or open space before they’re handed over for development.

“Unless the Coastal Commission signs off on these projects, these leases on parking lots are wasted time, paper and money,” she said. “The Coastal Commission is there to protect these public spaces and we’re not talking about any alternatives that would bring people to the area.”

The parking lots aren’t under-utilized, they’re just under-managed, she said.

“Your obligation to the LUP (land use plan) is to consider what could be done to keep these open spaces and enrich them with public park space,” Andrus said.

Nahhas said the Marina was created as a harbor for small craft recreation, and a parking lot can’t be used for development, according to the LCP. He asked how a pedestrian promenade around the Marina would be successful if the parking were removed and people were unable to park their cars and walk or ride their bikes.

Hans Etter claimed that the right-sizing parking study was a “bogus survey,” saying that the planned development would not be utilized and that increased fees are the reason that people don’t want to come down and park in these lots.

Etter maintained that the parking lots would be better utilized if run privately, like a business.

During the staff report presentation, Kreimann said that the Venice Pumping Plant Dual Force Main Project was approved by the Los Angeles City Council January 12th.

Kreimann said his staff, county counsel and the Department of Public Works testified before the City Council, asking to recirculate the draft environmental impact report, but the council approved the project unanimously.

He said that either further negotiations or possibly litigation would be required to reroute the project that proposes to construct a pipeline on county-owned property rather than city property.

Continued public comments on the Oxford Basin Project are still being reviewed by county officials, said Kreimann.

The right-size parking study is available online at beaches and harbors, http://beaches.co.la.ca.us/