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Marina apartment project is OKd

Activists are upset that L.A. County did not require more affordable housing in the complex.

March 07, 2007|Jack Leonard | Times Staff Writer

Rejecting calls for a more aggressive push to add low-income housing in Marina del Rey, Los Angeles County supervisors Tuesday unanimously gave a green light for plans to redevelop a major apartment complex on publicly owned land near the waterfront.

The decision deals a blow to affordable-housing advocates who had pressed the county to require more low-income apartments than proposed for the site. The vote also sets the tone for a debate expected later this month on how to rewrite the affordable-housing policy for the Marina.

"We are extremely disappointed," said Susanne Browne, a senior attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, representing affordable-housing advocates. "It's a huge lost opportunity for residents in the Marina, especially those who are going to be displaced by this development."

The developer, Del Rey Shores, plans to begin tearing down its 202-unit complex on Via Marina in the summer and replacing it with a 544-unit development.

All the units in the existing buildings are rented at market rates. The new complex will include 17 apartments for "very low income" tenants and 37 for "moderate income" renters.

Activists argued that it should include an additional 34 "very low income" units. Rents for apartments considered affordable housing are capped at a rate that takes into account the size of the unit and the household income of the tenants.

The developer said that adding more low-income housing would cost the county millions of dollars. Because the county owns the land, it receives 10.5% of the rents as part of its lease agreement with developers.

The county can use the income to supplement law enforcement, healthcare and other services for residents throughout the county. The county receives about $35 million a year from Marina rents.

"As this board knows, county resources are not limitless," said Dale Goldsmith, a lobbyist representing Del Rey Shores.

Supervisors barely discussed the issue of affordable housing, despite passionate pleas from some Marina residents.

Marlene Sadan, 69, said she can no longer afford her two-bedroom apartment in Del Rey Shores since her husband died in November. She said she pays $1,675 in rent but survives on $1,295 in monthly Social Security payments and what little she can make as a substitute preschool teacher when she can find work.

"There's no affordable housing to be found anywhere," she said, sobbing. "How would you like to be in my shoes? What would you do? Remember me and all the people like me when you make your decision."

State law requires inclusion of affordable housing in coastal redevelopment when deemed economically feasible. In the past, the county has allowed developers to pay large fees to build affordable housing elsewhere in lieu of providing it in the Marina. But the county is weighing a new policy that would end that practice.

David Sommers, a spokesman for Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes the Marina, said Knabe "is adamant that affordable housing is critical to any project in the Marina. But the county does also have an obligation to the taxpayers and the residents in the rest of the county that benefit from the revenue that comes out of the Marina."

Del Rey Shores must still obtain final approval for its designs before it can break ground.

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jack.leonard@latimes.com

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