The California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted 11-1 during its meeting in Oceanside on Thursday in favor of a Local Coastal Plan Amendment that will change zoning rules in Marina del Rey to make way for a bundled group of redevelopment projects.
The amendment pertained to the four so-called Pipeline Projects that were bundled together for consideration by the state agency, which has final say on coastal development. The projects include:
- Parcel 10/FF. A 400-unit apartment complex replacing a 136-unit complex and a 126-unit apartment complex on an existing public parking lot.
- Parcel OT. A 114-unit luxury senior housing complex.
- Parcel 52/GG. A dry-dock boat storage facility for 375 boats.
- Parcels 49/77. A proposed mixed use-facility that could include more than 116,000 square feet of commercial space, 255 residential units and a new 26,000-square-foot facility for the county's Department of Beaches and Harbor.
Santos H. Kreimann, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, and his staff have been shepherding the redevelopment projects through a slew of regulatory hurdles and he was clearly pleased Thursday afternoon with the commission's action.
"I'm excited about implementing the plan," Kreimann said. "Now we have to start looking ahead and start getting these things constructed and start to revitalize Marina del Rey. Today is a major victory for the 10 million residents of Los Angeles County."
Kreimann cited the hard work by his staff along with a transparent process for helping to sway the commissioners in favor of the project. The lengthy regulatory process that included local, county and state review has been going on for roughly a decade and included about 80 public meetings.
Commissioner Esther Sanchez, who is the deputy mayor of Oceanside, cast the lone dissenting vote. Sanchez unsuccessfully tried to add language to the amendment guaranteeing that there would be no future further reduction in the number of boat slips.
The CCC in 2008 pledged that there would be no further reduction in the number of slips in the marina and Sanchez wanted a similar commitment. She was prodded because the county's redevelopment plans call for larger slip sizes in order to reflect the market direction for larger boats, wider slips needed to comply with the American with Disabilities Act and new guidelines for wider gangplanks issued by the state's Department of Boating and Waterways.
The marina currently has 4,761 slips and planned development calls for a reduction to 4,338 wet slips. The county and the CCC compromised over slip sizes with the county agreeing to keep 39 percent of all slips for boats 30-feet and under and 20 percent of all slips for boats 31- to 35-feet, which amounts to 59 percent of all slips being reserved for boats 35-feet and under.
Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Ballona Institute that is dedicated to preserving the Ballona Wetlands ecosystem, lamented the CCC's decision to downgrade the protection status for herons and egrets that call the Marina del Rey-area home.
A CCC staff report by staff ecologist Jonna Engel has found that herons and egrets since the mid-1990s have steadily increased their population in the area and apparently have adapted to an urban environment and can no longer be considered as dwelling in an Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area.
"It's a sad day for the birds of Marina del Rey because they had strong legal protection for the past three years," Hanscom said.
The CCC's Engel found that the birds have become tolerant of human activities and the waterbirds and their nests are neither rare nor have an especially valuable role in the local ecosystem. The finding essentially mean the waterbirds and their nests do not require any special protection under the Coastal Act.
The hearing was held about 95 miles south of Marina del Rey despite pleas to delay the meeting until it could be held closer to Marina del Rey. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose 11th District includes neighboring Venice, Playa del Rey and Del Rey, sent a letter to Charles Lester, the new executive director of the commission, requesting a postponement and was joined by state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, whose district also includes Marina del Rey, and state Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina del Rey.
The commission was expected to hear the matter at its June meeting in Marina del Rey, but that was postponed due to commission staffing constraints. The meeting was rescheduled to October in Huntington Beach, but was postponed again last month.
The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission in December voted 3-1 in favor of the redevelopment plan. The planning department removed a project from consideration that would have reduced parking near Mother's Beach to make room for a three-building complex that would include 292 apartment units, 32,400-square-feet of retail space and 323 restaurant seats. The project had been decried by rowers who use the lot to park while they enjoy time on their kayaks, canoes and paddleboards.
In February, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the major redevelopment plan despite protests from a busload of residents.
Opponents of the redevelopment plans view the county's action as a gift to developers at the expense of county residents and claim it is against the mandate that the marina be preserved as a recreational destination for county residents.
Supporters of the redevelopment projects have claimed that the aging marina's docks need an upgrade after 40 years and require refurbishments to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bev Moore, the executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the commissioners that she supported the zoning changes because the marina is outdated and its condition is preventing the marina from competing with its more forward-thinking neighbors who are competing for the same travel and recreational spending.
The commission's staff report also dismissed concerns about parking in Marina del Rey, stating that there would be no overall reduction in parking and the county will retain 2,895 parking spaces in the marina. Parking impacts had been a major area of concern to the Venice Neighborhood Council and other adjacent neighborhood councils who were seeking a cumulative environmental impact assesstment on the proposed redevelopments.
Marina del Rey is in unincorporated Los Angeles County and is overseen by the county's Department of Beaches and Harbors. Long-term lessees operate the housing units, boat slips and commercial venues in the marina, including restaurants and hotels.
The marina's lessees are taxed and generate about $40 million annually for the cash-strapped county. The money goes to the county's general fund to pay for such items as law enforcement and health care programs, but some of it also goes to the Department of Beaches and Harbors for beach projects and maintenance throughout the county.
Editor's Note: Updated to add that state Assemblywoman Betsy Butler also urged the California Coastal Commission to delay the hearing.