On April 19, 2011, The Silver Strand News reported that the Los Angeles Department of Beaches and Harbors had posted a “Revised Hotel Concept” for the Woodfin Hotel project on Via Marina in Marina del Rey, on its website. There was no explanation accompanying the new plans other than stating that they were “in response to community concerns.” The Daily Breeze carried the story the following day. The original plan called for a 19 story, 225’ high hotel with a time-share element. The revised plan describes a 5 story, 70’ high hotel with no time-share element. The number of rooms remains 228. The site includes a designated wetland which the developer has attempted to compensate for, in both plans, by leaving space for a “recreated wetland” at the southern end of the lot at Via Marina and Tahiti Way.
The developer and potential leasee is The Hardage Group based in San Diego. The Chairman of the company is Samuel A. Hardage whose 3 existing Woodfin hotels are in Emeryville, Cypress and San Diego, California. His other hotel holding is the Chase Suite Hotels consisting of 12 hotels spread across the U.S. The architect for both MDR hotel plans is Gin Wong Associates, a Los Angeles architectural and planning firm.
In order to clarify the issue, The Silver Strand News posed a series of questions to Santos H. Kreimann, Director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors, via e-mail on April 20-23, 2011. The questions focused on the sudden appearance of the plan on their website only 7 days prior to the Board of Supervisors hearing on the appeal filed by the non-profit group, WE ARE MARINA DEL REY, on this and two other projects, filed on March 26, 2011 and scheduled to be heard by BOS on April 26. According to Mr. Kreimann, the Department of Beaches and Harbors had put in a request to the developer and potential leasee, The Hardage Group, to furnish it with a revised plan. Mr. Kreimann was unable to specify when the request was made other than to say “the developer had been working on the plans for some time….and just recently submitted them to my office for review.” The revised plans are dated April 1-8, 2011. According to Mr. Kreimann, “We requested permission from the developer to release the revised plan in order to be transparent and forthright with the public and members of the Board.”
When asked why the new plan was not posted either on the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning website or on the agenda for the Los Angeles Board of Supervisor’s hearing on the Woodfin scheduled for April 26, 2011, Mr. Kreimann replied:
“On Tuesday, the Supervisors will consider the appeal [by We Are Marina del Rey] of the original 19 story plan, which was approved last March by the Regional Planning Commission. The Board must hear the appeal and decide on the merits of the original plan. However, at the meeting, the Board could uphold or deny the appeal or opt to pursue the revised blueprint for the shorter building. If the Board chooses the latter, the revised plans would require a new round of public review and consideration by the Design Control Board and the Regional Planning Commission. I wanted to be sure to get the revised plans out to the public prior to the meeting in an effort to be transparent about the options being considered by my office.
Mr. Kreimann further explained that “The revised plans are part of the proprietary negotiations with my department, and is[sic] separate and apart from the entitlement process that is the responsibility of Regional Planning. Consequently, it would not be appropriate for the plans to be on Regional Planning’s site.”
Mr. Kreimann said that it [the revised plan] does not appear on the BOS agenda
“…because the Board is not taking an action on the revised plans. It will be hearing the appeal on the merits of the 19 story hotel….As part of the appeal process, The Hardage Group as the applicant, has the ability to request the Board to deny the original plan and request that the project be referred back to the Commission for reconsideration of a revised plan. Again, referring the project back to Regional Planning will require a new round of public review. The developer will decide what action he would like to pursue at the hearing. We requested permission from the developer to release the revised plan in order to be transparent and forthright with the public and members of the Board.
When asked why the revised plan was not presented during the course of the many public hearings on the project, Mr. Kreimann answered that: “This question is best answered by the developer who submitted their proposal based on a number of economic, environmental and social factors. In my experience, developers tend to arrive at their business decisions in different ways and at different times.”
The Supervisors now have three options to choose from this coming Tuesday:
1) The original 19 story, 225 foot hotel including a “recreated wetland park” at the southern end.
2) The revised 5 story, 70’ foot hotel including a “recreated wetland” park at the southern end.
3) No hotel and using the site to create a public park including the original wetland on the site.
Any decision will have to take into account the widespread public opposition to the 19 story hotel, which would locate the tallest building in Marina del Rey in the middle of a 3 story residential neighborhood which runs from Panay Way down to the entrance to the MDR harbor and is therefore out of character with its surroundings. In addition, there is the problem of a commercial structure encroaching on a designated wetland. Opponents wonder whether MDR needs yet another hotel with a 25% vacancy rate in those already in place. There is also the fact that Via Marina is a designated scenic drive and that a single high-rise building will impact views from other designated vista points including Fisherman’s Village, Mothers Beach, Burton Chace Park and from boats and tourist vessels sailing the harbor waters. The Woodfin shares an Environmental Impact Report with another project, the yet to be built Neptune Legacy Apartments, also under appeal and to be considered in the hearing. In terms of creation of new park, proponents have pointed out that the only parks now in existence are Burton Chace which is not large and very overcrowed on weekends. The same is true of the small park at the harbor entrance on Via Marina which is popular but has inadequate parking. The park on Admiralty Way is primarily used by joggers and dog walkers willing to put up with the sound and polluted air of adjacent traffic. The only other park area of any consequence is Mothers Beach, a popular spot with boating groups and families, which, at least for the moment, has adequate parking. Due to these considerations, it is likely that whatever decision the Supervisors make will have to be presented to the California Coastal Commission for final approval. The Coastal Commission hearing is currently scheduled to take place June 15-17, 2011 at the Marina del Rey Hotel in Marina del Rey.
The Board of Supervisor’s hearing will take place on April 26 at the Kenneth HahnHall of Administration at Building, 500 W Temple Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 starting at 9:30am. The nearest parking is available at Walt Disney Hall and the Music Center. It will be streamed live on Tuesday,April 26 from the BOS website and televised on April 27 at 10:AM on KLCS.