County supervisors approve Marina del Rey redevelopment; Coastal Commission has yet to rule
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to permit parking lots in Marina del Rey to be redeveloped into new apartment housing, restaurant and retail space.
The supervisors’ action, however, is not the final word. Changing the zoning of parking lots to permit new development must be approved by the California Coastal Commission, which has broad authority over coastal development.
The development has long been championed by Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes Marina del Rey. The man-made pleasure boat harbor is owned by the county, which reaps about $35 million in revenue a year from land leases to developers who operate apartment buildings, restaurants, stores and docks.
Knabe has contended that the marina is an “asset that should be the crown jewel of the county.... We need to pick up the pace,” Knabe said in 2008.
The vote came after about two hours of testimony at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration. On one side were developers and the managers of privately run boating docks, who asserted that the harbor has languished since the 1970s and needed new development to attract high-end retail and restaurants to revitalize what could become a premier tourist destination on the Pacific coast.
“This is a developer-driven plan based on developer-driven projects,” said Nancy Vernon Marino, who represents the group We Are Marina del Rey.
The marina “does not need new shopping centers. It doesn’t need a lot more car trips. Already, wildlife is getting killed trying to cross the roads in this area,” said Kathy Knight, conservation chair of the Sierra Club’s Airport-Marina Group. “Please stop overdeveloping Marina del Rey. I know it’s a cash cow ... [but] we need to start saving these ecological resources.”
Jon Nahhas said reducing the number of smaller boat slips would have the effect of getting rid of entry-level boating. He found the proposal troubling considering that San Francisco will soon host the America’s Cup sailing competition.
“That’s like hosting the World Cup and then getting rid of AYSO soccer,” Nahhas said.
“What we’ll get for this is [a marina] for the super wealthy,” said Andy Bessette, president of the Marina Boatowners Assn.
Supporters, however, said the development project is long overdue.
“For many years, the marina has languished…and deteriorated due to the lack of redevelopment,” said Greg Schem, the owner and operator of the BoatYard and Del Rey Landing in Marina del Rey. “We are beginning to move down a rational path of progress.”
Schem said the creation of more boat slips for larger boats is “good public policy” because more sailors are choosing to buy larger boats.
David Barish, who also represents the group We are Marina del Rey, said he hoped to seek more changes to the county’s development plan at the California Coastal Commission.
The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission in December deleted one of the most controversial aspects of the original development plan, which would have severely reduced parking in the lot north of Mothers Beach, which is used as a launching area for canoes, kayaks and other boats.
-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration