The state Coastal Conservancy has developed a plan that would provide more than 250 new parking spaces in the Marina Peninsula area of Venice.
The plan, which will undergo public hearings and is subject to Los Angeles City Council approval, was disclosed at a community meeting sponsored by City Council President Pat Russell last week. Further public comment will be sought at another hearing in December or January.
City officials said that public parking has been a problem for years in the Marina Peninsula, which is located between Via Marina and the ocean and includes the Ballona Lagoon. Beaches in the area are underused because people cannot find parking places, they said.
The new conservancy plan would provide 183 new spaces on Pacific Avenue, which would be converted to a one-way street; 30 spaces in a lot at the south end of Pacific, and 50 in a city lot on the east side of the lagoon, with a foot bridge to provide beach access. Some of the sites are now privately owned.
It also calls for more noticeable signs to be posted at 180 spaces that are located mainly in cul-de-sacs in the peninsula area. The spaces were installed in connection with the Silver Strand housing development as a Coastal Commission requirement about eight years ago but are underused.
Russell asked the conservancy to devise a plan to ease the Marina Peninsula's long-standing parking shortage last spring, after her controversial land-swap proposal to create parking met with strong opposition, said John Hartmire, Russell's press secretary. The trade would have exchanged 20 city-owned Venice-area lots for a 11 privately held lots on the lagoon with about the same total square footage.
Russell's proposal was criticized by a city administrative analyst and area residents who said the city would be giving away prime land in exchange for less valuable private property.
Critics said the proposed trade would chiefly benefit some of Russell's major campaign contributors who own the land she had designated for swapping.
When the controversy arose in March, Russell denied that political contributions had influenced her proposal, but later she decided to "pursue a different strategy," Hartmire said in an interview on Tuesday.
"She didn't want the issue to become the land swap, when the real issue is to establish more parking," he said.
The problem of providing parking in the Marina Peninsula has been a stubborn one because of conflicting homeowner, environmental and public-access interests, state and city sources said.
"They have been at this impasse for years," said Ruth Galanter, a state conservancy consultant and former chairman of the South Coast Regional Coastal Commission.
A city parking study in 1972 estimated a shortage of 500 public parking spaces in the area, and the need is probably even greater today, she said.
Now that the conservancy has submitted its proposal, it is up to the city to decide whether to follow it, Galanter said.
Russell instructed the conservancy not to concern itself with how the city could acquire the necessary land, Galanter said.
But she noted that there is some urgency because some of the properties are awaiting development and could get Coastal Commission approval in the near future. If approval is granted, the properties would probably be developed and would become too costly to be purchased by the city, she said.
Arnold Springer, a member of the Venice Town Council's planning and development committee, said his group has not yet reviewed the proposal. The council would favor a plan that provides public parking but protects the Grand Canal and Ballona Lagoon, he said.