County planners OK development along Marina del Rey waterfront
Los Angeles County planning commissioners have recommended approval of a controversial plan to build more retail, restaurant, office and housing on parking lots in Marina del Rey.
County staff, however, bowed to public protests on the most controversial element of the plan as it was presented in November: the loss of parking spaces on the northern edge of Mother’s Beach.
The Mother’s Beach parking lot is used by kayakers and boaters to access the marina, which is owned by the county. County officials had wanted to develop the lot in order to generate new lease revenues.
“We did listen to you and we listened to the public and we would like to take a closer look at this project at another time,” Michael Tripp of the Department of Regional Planning said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Steven Cho, who enjoys paddling outrigger canoes at Marina del Rey, was ecstatic.
“It was a win,” said Cho, who represents a coalition of recreational boaters at Mother’s Beach. “That was a decision that was not done lightly.”
Other critics remained unsatisfied after the vote. The recommendation calls for a change in the zoning of other parking lots to allow construction of apartment units, restaurants and retail space.
“We are still concerned about taking public parking lots and turning them into private development,” said David Barish, a critic of the county’s plans. “We do not need another Santa Monica Place on the boat launch ramp,” he said, referring to the outdoor shopping mall near the Santa Monica Pier.
Barish instead favored opening a public market similar to the one in Seattle that would sell fresh seafood and produce, or building an aquarium or maritime museum.
There is “too much focus on shopping versus recreation that is boating- or water-related,” Barish said.
Commissioners voted 3 to 1 to recommend moving forward on development at the marina. The zoning change was opposed by Commissioner Esther Valadez; Commissioner Leslie Bellamy was absent.
Valadez expressed concern about whether parking spaces would meet demand after existing lots were lost to new development.
Santos Kreimann, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, disputed criticism that the county was trying to maximize profit at the expense of the public good.
Kreimann said revenue from the marina helps fund county operations that give the public access to county beaches.
Commissioners supporting the zoning change said it was important to provide high-end retail and restaurant establishments that will generate sales tax revenues and attract visitors.
“We need some good restaurants. We need a restaurant row,” said Commissioner Harold Helsley. “This is not just a residential community. This is not just a boat-users community.”
The zoning change must still be approved by the county Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission, a state agency that has broad authority over coastal development.