L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe says Marina del Rey 'just needs to be polished'
Los Angeles County supervisors took a major step this week in efforts to bring new development to Marina del Rey.
Supervisors voted 4 to 0 on Tuesday to allow parking lots in the county-owned marina to be redeveloped into new apartment housing, restaurant and retail space.(Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was absent.)
Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes Marina del Rey, spoke to The Times about the project, which must still win the approval of the California Coastal Commission, which has broad authority over coastal development.
Knabe called Tuesday’s vote an “incredible first step” to giving the marina, an unincorporated community whose land is owned by the county and leased to developers, what he believes is a desperately needed tune up.
“That asset has been out there since the 1960s. … It’s something that’s been sitting in the sun, the wind, the rain and the ocean and the salt water. It just needs to be polished,” Knabe said.
Not everyone agrees, setting up a quintessential L.A. battle over development at a seaside community. A vocal contingent of environmentalists and residents oppose the redevelopment efforts and plan to make their views known to the Coastal Commission.
Developers argue that the marina has languished and deteriorated since the 1970s, leaving the marina feeling empty and unable to live up to its potential.
Some planning commissioners have said the marina should be a competitive tourist destination in Southern California, comparable to nearby Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. Proponents point out that building tourist traffic would bring in needed sales tax revenue to Los Angeles County government.
Knabe said he has long been dissatisfied by the slow pace of redeveloping the marina.
“There are those in the marina that, whatever you do, they won’t agree with it. But, you know, we’ve tried to work with the community, and boaters, and everyone else to make it a feasible plan that the Coastal Commission is going to buy into,” Knabe said.
Knabe rebutted critics’ accusations the county’s moves were coming at the expense of boaters and current residents.
“It is not just their backyard. … If you really create a regional opportunity for Marina del Rey, and upgrade it, whether it be restaurants, the opportunity to live on the water, the opportunity to do recreation on the water, you have to do that,” said Knabe, referring to the county’s development plan.
“It’s just been frustrating, all these years. This is a huge first step today,” Knabe said, noting some of these development projects have been discussed for more than a decade. “Time has passed us by.”
The plan that the supervisors approved did omit one of the original plan’s most controversial elements, which would have severely reduced parking just north of Mothers Beach, which is a popular parking location for kayakers , canoers, and other boaters.
There are others, however, who say that the county’s approach will still be detrimental to recreational boaters. They say the reduction of parking spaces in other lots, and reduction of parking spaces for smaller boats to accommodate larger ones will discourage beginner sailors from Marina del Rey.
“The mandate for the Marina is to bring benefits … to LA County through the creation of a low-cost recreational and tourist destination,” David Barish wrote in a letter to the supervisors. The county’s proposal, he wrote, “moves the marina even further away from its intended purpose as ‘the people’s’ marina.”
-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration
Photo: Rowers ready their craft in November at Marina del Rey's Mother's Beach. County officials want to remake the unincorporated community into a tourist destination. Credit: Katie Falkenberg/For The Times