Harbor Businesses Express Concerns with Proposed Temporary Housing Site, Offer to Work on Other Solutions

Los Angeles is moving forward with looking into if it would be feasible to construct temporary single-occupancy tiny homes or safe camping sites at several sites, including in the boat launch ramp parking lot in Marina del Rey, the Convention and Visitors Bureau hopes to find an alternative solution.

MARINA DEL REY—A group of harbor front businesses led by the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau is hoping to work with the county to contribute to solutions to assist the area’s unhoused population after the City Council agreed to conduct a feasibility study of constructing a temporary housing site in the parking lot for the boat launch ramp. On June 16, the CVB sent a letter to Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, whose district includes Marina del Rey, expressing they felt this location was not feasible but they would like to collaborate on alternative solutions.

“This is where folks come to access the coast, this is where they come to access all the water activities, it’s the only place in LA where you can actually get your boat and launch out into the ocean,” said CVB CEO Janet Zaldua. “…Because it’s not a feasible location to have the homeless pallets here, we’re saying look we still want to be part of the solution, we want to offer suggestions, we want to offer ideas.”

The letter came after the Los Angeles City Council on May 26 approved a motion calling for a feasibility study to be conducted for constructing temporary single-occupancy tiny homes or safe camping sites at 10 locations, including at the county-owned parking lot at 13477 Fiji Way in Marina del Rey, the lot used for the public boat launch ramp.

Los Angeles 11th District Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents part of Los Angeles’ Westside, and councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas submitted the motion in March. The motion originally included Marina del Rey’s Fisherman’s Village parking lot but was amended by the Homelessness and Poverty Committee to replace the location with the boat launch ramp parking lot, which is about half a mile from Fisherman’s Village.

The approved motion doesn’t approve the proposals but authorizes a study of their cost, feasibility, and impact. Once the report is completed it will be brought back to the Council for additional discussion.

“That is what I’m asking us to do with this motion, is do a feasibility study and make sure no stone is unturned,” said Councilmember Bonin at the May 26 meeting.

The proposal has drawn some opposition, including from some harbor-front businesses in Marina del Rey, an unincorporated community in Los Angeles County surrounded by the Bonin’s westside district. They said the harbor is not a feasible location because it is a tourism attraction and the temporary housing would impact the number of visitors and harm businesses.

“They’re [the businesses] the ones that are going to be financially impacted by this, it’s a deterrent where people just don’t feel safe coming,” said Zaldua.

Captain Rick Oefinger, president of Marina del Rey Sportfishing, whose customers use the Fisherman’s Village parking lot, supported the letter.

“Just their presence is enough to deter people from coming,” said Oefinger.

Zaldua also said the marina does not have access to supportive services needed to help stabilize people such as medical and mental health facilities or addiction rehabilitation centers.

Zaldua said they would like to work with the county to develop sustainable solutions to reduce homelessness without hurting businesses that are struggling to recover from economic losses of the COVID-19 pandemic. One suggestion they put forward is earmarking a percentage of Marina del Rey’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which is charged to hotel guests, to support homeless initiatives specifically on the westside.

“So that as tourism thrives, support for homeless services will also increase,” said Zaldua.

Another solution put forth by Zaldua was to create a homeless task force under the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s substation. A similar task force previously existed in 2014 and 2015 in the Marina.

Zaldua said largely in part due to sheriff’s department enforcement, the marina has not had problems with illegal overnight encampments. However, encampments have been a problem in the neighboring Ballona Wetlands and Venice neighborhood.

“It’s had such an impact that we want to be part of the solution, we don’t want to come across as being that the businesses are cold-hearted,” said Zaldua.

Councilmember Bonin at the May 26 City Council meeting acknowledged none of the proposed locations were ideal but that he needed to find locations within his district.

“I do not feel it would be appropriate for me to say we can’t do it my part of town and I think it would be very inappropriate of me to ask you to relieve me of that obligation,” said Bonin.

The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count found 66,436 people in Los Angeles County were experiencing homelessness in January 2020, a 12.7 percent rise from the previous year’s point-in-time count. Of those, 41,290 were in the city of Los Angeles, a 16.1 percent rise from the previous year’s point-in-time count.

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