‘Virtual Town Hall’ Created for Marina del Rey Ideas

Byline: Ambrosia Brody

‘Virtual Town Hall’ Created for Marina del Rey Ideas

MARINA DEL REY — Residents, boaters and visitors can now provide their input on the future of Marina del Rey from the comfort of their home, office or local coffee shop, with the launch of the Envision Marina del Rey website forum.

The new “virtual town hall” is a stage for individuals to discuss their vision for Marina del Rey, topics related to the future of the city and potential solutions to problems — and to post questions. Users are invited to share what amenities are most important to them and how they see those amenities incorporated in the plan for the city.

“This virtual town hall allows people across the county to participate throughout the entire process,” said Gina Natoli, supervising regional planner for the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning.

The website not only keeps people informed of upcoming meetings and topics, but also allows them to participate in the process on their own time.

“The purpose of the site is to get more feedback and have more people engaged in the process,” she said. “Not everyone can come to meetings or feels comfortable contributing. This way, they can do it through any computer — anywhere, anytime — and be part of the process.”

The site, EnvisionMDR.com, is a tool being used in the county’s visioning process being led by the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, to help create a vision for the next 20 years for Marina del Rey. Community planning events, workshops and focus group meetings will be held throughout the process. An initial meeting was held April 25 and a walking tour was hosted on June 1.

Listening sessions, which provide groups with an opportunity to raise their issues with department staff, are also being scheduled. “We are more than happy to come out and meet with a group,” Natoli said.

On the site, Department of Regional Planning staff posts questions and discussion topics to help generate conversation, and will also participate in the online forums.

Guests can rate a suggestion by clicking “I love it,” “I like it,” “It’s OK,” or “Neutral.” Discussion forums on specific topics can also be created on the site.

At press time, a user recommended making the marina more bike-friendly to reduce congestion. Others suggested more moderately priced waterside bistros where patrons can dine and take in the harbor views.

The site also posts questions pertaining to the types of businesses that are needed in Marina del Rey and how to make the city a more sustainable community. One response was to establish a community-based workshop similar to Bicycle Kitchen in Los Angeles, but for the repair and maintenance of small watercraft, such as surfboards and stand-up paddleboards. The thought is that customers could bring in their boards or small boats and learn how to fix leaks or make other needed repairs.

“Such a workshop could help low-income boat owners keep their craft seaworthy and safe, while also teaching valuable skills such as woodworking, fiberglass repair, etc.,” the post read.

Cleaning up Mother’s Beach, keeping the city boater-friendly and providing accessible marine-related services and amenities were also recommended.

EnvisionMDR.com is another arm of the county’s outreach efforts to gather more public participation. The visioning process is an update of the Marina del Rey’s Local Coastal Plan.

Regional planners are gathering input from the community on how they envision the city 20 years from now. Recommendations for an updated plan will be submitted to the California Coastal Commission by January 2015 and to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors by September 2014.

Several stakeholders have complained that the county did an inadequate job of notifying the public of meetings, and that the visioning process is not completely understood by the residents.

However, “We started the process by mailing 10,600 postcards to the boat owners and residents of Marina del Rey through our courtesy mailing list,” Natoli said.

The meeting dates have also been posted on county supervisor, regional planning and other county department Web pages. Social media has also been used to help distribute the information.

“We are doing everything and anything that we usually do — and more,” she said. “We are telling as many people as we can, and we feel we are doing the best job that we can, with the time restraints and resources available to us.”

Ideas and suggestions posted on EnvisionMDR.com are received by county staff and officials, including Natoli, Supervisor Don Knabe, the County of Los Angeles Department of Regional Planning’s Richard Bruckner, and deputy director for the county’s Department of Beaches and Harbors Gary Jones.

Natoli encourages citizens to participate on the website and in person.

“We are so large and so diverse, and this will allow us to reach so many more people and get feedback,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”

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