Grand Jury Criticizes Summa, County Plans for Marina del Rey

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Grand Jury has approved a report criticizing the Summa Corp.'s $1-billion Playa Vista project and calling for restraints on a county plan to convert 830 Marina del Rey apartments to 99-year leases.

The report will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in June.

Nine hundred acres of undeveloped land south of the marina are expected to become the Playa Vista planned community with 20,000 residents living in apartments and condominiums, a 40-acre boat basin, three hotels and up to 1 million square feet of office space.

Plans Called Inadequate

The grand jury report said, however, that "plans submitted for transportation . . . do not appear adequate to handle the influx of traffic that will be generated." It recommends that "all access roads to the marina be widened wherever possible and additional new roads be built within the marina."

Robert Beckerman, who headed the grand jury committee studying Playa Vista, said there will be a "terrible traffic jam" without more and wider roads. He criticized the Board of Supervisors and the Coastal Commission for approving in September a Local Coastal Plan for the development.

Beckerman said he hoped the jury's report will lead the supervisors "to turn down some of the future details that would add even more to the crowding of the marina area." The board will be asked to approve a specific plan for development of Playa Vista sometime early next year, according to county planners.

Plans Protested

Various neighborhood organizations have protested that the project would bring too much traffic to the area.

"The numbers are horrendous," said Ray Liccini of the Coalition of Concerned Communities, which represents 13 neighborhood organizations from Venice to El Segundo. "You are going to go up from 10,000 (vehicle trips) per day on some streets to 10 times that when the project is completed. Nothing short of double-decking the streets will solve the problem. There is not enough money to do that, so there is nothing that can be done short of scaling (the Playa Vista project) down."

Liccini cited a report from the Southern California Assn. of Governments that predicts that some of the intersections in the area will be 50% over capacity even after improvements are made.

But a county planner said that Summa commissioned a report of its own that shows traffic will continue to flow.

"The report says that the traffic will move," according to planner Dave Cowardin. "It should function. . . . Change is the troubling part. People see this as a freer (more wide open) area right now."

Chris Henry, a Summa spokeswoman, said any traffic problems would be worked out as plans are completed. She said there will be less traffic congestion after Playa Vista and its road improvements are completed than there would have been without the improvements.

Flat Price

The second half of the grand jury report calls for changes in a county plan that allows two Marina del Rey apartment complexes to charge tenants a flat price to lease an apartment for up to 99 years. The prepaid leases could cost as much as $500,000.

Landlords now lease from the county the land on which all 5,800 apartment units in the marina stand. The Marina City Club and Kingswood Village apartments could, in effect, become condominiums if final plans are approved, county officials said. Marina apartments cannot be sold outright as condominiums because the land belongs to the public.

In its report the grand jury recommended that:

- Tenants should be allowed to decide by majority vote whether their buildings will be converted to the long-term leases.

- No more than one-third of the marina's apartments should be converted.

- The arrangements should be referred to as "long-term prepaid subleases" and not condominiums, as they have been called by some county officials.

- Tenants should be informed of their liability for maintenance of common areas, property taxes and insurance in those buildings that are converted.

The report also stated that when the long-term leases expire, the land is scheduled to return to the county. Leaseholders, it said, should be informed that they will have to give the units back to the county at the end of 99 years.

Beckerman said conversion of Marina apartments should not proceed until current tenants are apprised of their rights.

"We think it should be democratically handled," he said, "so that they don't get thrown out of there . . . because everyone who cannot afford to stay will be thrown out on their ear."

Eric Bourdon, assistant director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors, said he would not comment on the grand jury's proposals until he has seen its report. But he said tenants would probably not be given a vote on conversion of their buildings, "because they aren't a party to the lease agreement" between the county and landlords.

The special marina units and the condominiums proposed for the Summa property will be "priced well beyond the means of most middle-income people," the grand jury report said. In 1981, a grand jury report recommended against condominiums in the marina because it "would become a playground for the very rich."

Staff writer Barbara Baird contributed to this report.

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