A Marina del Rey flood control basin that has become a makeshift sanctuary for unwanted bunnies, baby chicks and ducklings would no longer be home for those abandoned animals under a proposal being recommended to the county Small Craft Harbor Commission.
Commissioner Mark Nathanson, who conducted a public hearing on a proposed land-use plan for the Oxford Flood Control Basin in October, is recommending in a report to the commission that the animals be removed gradually.
"I must reluctantly conclude that it is not appropriate to provide a permanent domestic animal care area in the Oxford Flood Control Basin," Nathanson said in his report. "My conclusion is based on the environmental concerns that have been raised, particularly the effect on Marina water quality, surrounding residents, competition with wildfowl and the risk of interference with the primary function of flood control."
Nathanson's recommendation also calls for support for state legislation prohibiting the sale of certain animals such as baby chicks, ducklings and bunnies by pet shops.
The commission will consider the matter on Monday at 9:30 a.m. at the county administration building in Marina del Rey. Its recommendation will go to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.
The October public hearing, which included representatives from the county Public Works Department, Animal Care and Control Department and Department of Beaches and Harbors, was attended by about 70 members of the public. According to Nathanson's report, 29 people spoke at the hearing, with 17 opposing the sanctuary and 12 supporting it.
Those opposed to setting aside a permanent area for the animals were primarily residents in the nearby Oxford Triangle area. They complained about roosters crowing in the early morning, offensive odors and the inappropriateness of a bird and animal sanctuary near a residential area.
Supporters of the sanctuary, including members of Marina Sanctuary Inc., a nonprofit group of about 100 volunteers who care for the animals in the flood basin, said that the abandoned creatures need a shelter and that the public enjoys viewing them.
Officials said the animals began collecting at the 10.5-acre flood-control basin about 10 years ago when people starting dumping ducklings, baby chicks and bunnies that had been given to children for Christmas or Easter.
Volunteers started feeding and caring for the discarded animals in 1982, providing more than 300 pounds of food a day and organizing a neutering program for the rabbits, which over the years have multiplied greatly.
Ted Reed, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the county Public Works Department warned that rabbit burrows posed a threat to the stability of a bike path along Oxford Avenue and to the slopes along the sides of the basin.
Residents have questioned whether runoff from the sanctuary may harm water quality in the marina.
Last fall, an ad hoc committee composed of representatives from the county animal control department, Marina Area Chamber of Commerce, Marina Library, Marina master leaseholders and the Department of Beaches and Harbors designed a land-use plan for the basin that would be compatible with the basin's primary function of flood control.
The committee had recommended that the northern portion of the flood basin along Washington Street be a permanent animal-care area. It also proposed converting the eastern end of the basin along Oxford Avenue to a picnic and viewing area, the western end near the Marina International Hotel into an open wetlands area and the southern portion along admiralty Way into a protected landscaped area.
Nathanson's recommendation favors everything in the proposed land-use plan except the animal sanctuary.