One would be hard pressed to think of any structure more aesthetically inappropriate to Marina del Rey than the “Shores,” the 544 unit apartment complex now nearing completion on Via Marina on the Silver Strand peninsula. This architectural heffalump is brought us by the combined talents of the development partners (Jerry Epstein, Kirk Douglas, and Guardian Life Insurance), Nadel Architects, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The developers put up 40 million towards the estimated 165 million dollar cost of the project. The balance of 125 million dollars was provided by Red Mortgage Capital, LLC. The loan is insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Development (HUD) in return for providing a mere 54 low-income rental units. This is the largest FHA-insured project in the history of HUD. Per the Shores website, rents on the 273 one-bedroom units will start from $2139 for a 750 sq. ft apartment and from $2262 and $2368 for a 900 sq.ft apartment. The 271 two-bedroom/2 bath units start from $2936 for 1050 sq. ft. space and at $3279 for a 1250 sq.ft unit. Price will depend on views, floor location and “amenities” and are subject to change. Electrical utilities are not included. In case you’re wondering who HUD is, it’s us the US tax payer. Let us hope that they find enough applicants who can afford these rents. If the project goes into default we, the taxpayers, will become the owners.
Make no mistake, I am a fan of contemporary architecture. Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Arata Isozaki, Zaha Hadid and many others are among my favorites. I am also perfectly happy with lesser architectural luminaries who have enhanced Marina del Rey by understanding the aesthetics of what works in our low-key harbor/ocean side environment. Nick Caruso’s Waterside Shopping Center is fine and so is the recent renovation of the Jamaica Bay Inn. These are low-rise buildings with modulated color schemes which are completely compatible with the rest of MDR and reflect a respect for their location in a place of great natural beauty. The Shores is not fine. It is sited on a prime spot, just south of the entrance to Via Marina, formerly occupied by low-rise apartment complexes (see photos above). With the exception of the Shores, Via Marina is a wide, light-filled boulevard with harbor views. The Shores, which occupies a very large parcel, is massive. In the afternoon, it casts deep shadow over Via Marina creating an ominous sense of claustrophobia, which is further exacerbated by its minimal setbacks. The glaring color scheme of red, white and blue panels on the facade certainly makes “a statement.” About what who knows. Perhaps patriotism and the spirit of ’76? In an effort to mitigate the housing project look of this behemoth, the architects have added a few ersatz flying-buttress effects on the exterior along with something resembling “sails” on the roof. In any case, the Shores has left many Silver Strand residents fuming about the project’s extraordinary lack of sensitivity to the natural beauty of the surrounding area. As for the traffic impact, we hate to think.
Moving right along:
The Holiday Harbor Courts on Panay Way and Via Marina is scheduled to begin construction momentarily. A 5-story, 23,300 square foot mixed use complex (health club, yacht club, retail and office space. Developer Goldrich and Kent. Half of it looks like the 1950s redux and the rest banal hack glass-encased commercial architecture.
The Neptune Marina, a 525 unit apartment complex on either side of Marquesas Way at Via Marina, being developed by Legacy Partners is scheduled to begin construction in June, 2013. Architect TCA. 511,655 square feet. Four 55′ high, 4-story (above parking level) apartment buildings. This project is on Via Marina is kitty-corner to the Shores. The prospect of the combined traffic impact of this project, in addition to the “Shores” and the Holiday Harbor Court, in terms of ingress and egress from the Silver Strand from Washington Boulevard, either from Via Marina or Via Dolce, is mind-boggling. The County is planning to solve this potential bottleneck with a couple of extra turn lanes to solve the problem of entry and egress on the short blocks between Washington and the Silver Strand. Hmm………..
The Marina West Shopping Center on Washington Boulevard between Via Dolce. and Via Marina (Parcel 95 & LLS). Project will begin construction in late 2014. Developer Michael Pashaie and David Tabin. A 22,806 square foot commercial/ retail/ restaurant space. Single-story building.
The hotel (formerly Woodfin Hotel and Suites) on Via Marina between Marquesas Way and Via Marina. Developer Samuel A. Hardage. Hardage’s website states that it will be a Courtyard by Marriott. Hardage’s original plan was for a 225 foot high, 19-story hotel on the site. That was shot down by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in April, 2012 as a result of widespread community protest and was sent back to the drawing board. This will be the 2nd Marriott hotel in Marina del Rey – the 1rst is the Marina Marriott is on Admiralty at Via Marina. Architect Gin Wong Associates. The project is being revised by Hardage prior to submittal to the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission,the Design Control Board and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The parcel will include the Wetland Park proposal at the southern end for which the developer will pay 50% of the design and construction cost. The balance will be paid by the County. The developer will assume the cost of maintenance. According to Carol Baker of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors, this project is still just “a project.”
What can you do?:
In the past decades, the County has banked on the assumption that residents of MDR, adjacent communities including Venice (which despite our zipcode is our jurisdiction), and those who love Marina del Rey would be complacent and go along with their program. MDR is publicly owned land. The Supervisors are merely its trustees. However, MDR is a cash cow for the County – in fact its largest income producing asset. Large projects in MDR generate large cash flows in the form of lease income and taxes. Some of that money comes back to MDR in terms of services. A great deal more goes into the County’s General Fund.
The Coalition to Save the Marina and We Are Marina del Rey were non-profit organizations which pioneered the effort to protest over-development in the last few decades and educate the public about its consequences. (many Silver Strand residents joined their cause). Finally, with the County’s proposal to plunk down a 19-story, 225 foot hotel on Via Marina (formerly known as the Woodfin Hotel and Time-share Suites) in a residential neighborhood, the tide turned. There was a palace revolution, not only among residents of the Marina, the Silver Strand, and the Venice Peninsula, but by many local organizations and political representatives. People started showing up in droves at hearings, they sent letters and emails to the Board of Supervisors, the County Department of Beaches and Harbors (who manage the leases and much else in MDR) and to the Coastal Commission. The Venice Neighborhood Council, the Sierra Club, City Councilman, Bill Rosendahl and Assemblywoman, Betsy Butler lent their support. The result was that BOS and Supervisor Don Knabe, as he put it, finally “listened.” BOS told Samuel Hardage, the developer of 19-story Woodfin, to revise his project down to 5 stories, albeit with the same number of hotel rooms, and start the public review process all over again.
So what we can all do is be vigilant and participatory when it comes to the County’s proposals. For example, under the recently certified Marina del Rey Specific Plan, the County has the right approve a string of 75 feet high-rise, high-density apartment buildings along the eastern side of Via Marina, from Marquesas to the channel, once the current leases for those parcels expire. The western side of Via Marina, starting at Via Marquesas, is under City not County jurisdiction. Anything the County proposes has a ripple effect, not only on MDR, but adjacent communities (we are one of them). They affect our quality of life and our property values. Of particular concern to Silver Strand residents is that the renters and hotel guests in several of these projects on Via Marina may use our Malls to walk their dogs and access the beach via the Lighthouse Bridge. They may have their service people and guests use our parking niches and Via Dolce to park. Via Dolce could become an alternate route for those wishing to escape traffic jams on Via Marina. Therefore, our advice is to take action and be part of the solution. If we don’t, we become part of the problem.
Here is a list of people you can write to:
CITY OF LOS ANGELES: Despite its zip code, The Silver Strand is in Venice and under the jurisdiction of the city of Los Angeles, not Los Angeles County. Linda Lucks has been sympathetic to our concerns. Mike Bonin has succeeded Bill Rosendahl as our Councilman and may also be sympathetic.
Mike Bonin, : City of Los Angeles, 11th District Councilman Email: Mike Bonin@mikebonin
Linda Lucks, President Venice Neighborhood Council: email:
Ted Lieu: State Senator 28th District: website http://senate.ca.gov/lieu
Richard Bloom: Assemblyman, 50th District: website:http://asmdc.org/members/a50
THE COUNTY: These are the people and departments who make the decisions about development in Marina del Rey:
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors: Don Knabe: Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning:
Richard Bruckner, Director of Planning (310) 974- 6401 email: email@example.com
Gina Natoli, Supervising Regional Planner, Department of Regional Planning
Kevin Finkel, Regional Planner, Department of Regional Planning
Department of Beaches and Harbors: Controls who leases property in Marina del Rey and review plans for new construction. Deputy Director, Gary Jones: beaches.lacounty.gov
Michael Tripp: Planning Specialist, Department of Beaches and Harbors
Design Control Board (Part of the Department of Beaches and Harbors). Approves plans for parcels in Marina del Rey. There is no direct contact information given on the B&H website. This Board has more or less preempted by the Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning. See the Beaches and Harbor website above for its agend meeting schedule.
Chair: Peter Phinney, A.I.A
Coastal Commission: Grants or denies permits all projects within Venice and Marina del Rey, etc. Jack Ainsworth, Senior Deputy. South Central Coast Office, 89 South California Street, Suite 200,Ventura, CA 93001-2801 (805) 585-1800
PS: The Silver Strand News has been covering developments in MDR for the last 2 and half years. If you want to read the history on these County projects, including those mentioned above, just type in the name, i.e. Woodfin or Shores or Los Angeles County into the search bar on the upper right of the blog and the articles will come up.