SACRAMENTO — The fight over Marina del Rey incorporation shifted to a new battleground in the Capitol on Wednesday as the Senate Local Government Committee debated a bill that could block marina cityhood.
However, a vote on the measure, carried by Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward), was put off for a week.
The battle lines were clear. On one side were marina landlords and Los Angeles County officials backing the bill. On the other were marina tenants seeking cityhood and Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) and Assemblywoman Gwen Moore (D-Los Angeles), whose districts include the marina.
Meanwhile, a tenants' group called Marina del Rey Cityhood Inc. announced that it has obtained more than double the 1,400 signatures of registered voters needed for the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission to consider putting incorporation on the ballot.
Hy Tucker, president of the group, said that more than 3,000 signatures have been collected. But he cautioned that they must still be certified by the county registrar-recorder's office before the commission can proceed.
In March, the commission's director issued a preliminary report that said a new city in the marina would lose nearly $2 million in its first year of operation.
At the center of the dispute on the Lockyer measure is a provision that would prevent incorporations in areas where less than 50% of the land is privately held.
In the 1,700-acre waterfront community of Marina del Rey, the county owns slightly more than half the land and, in turn, leases it to developers for boat slips, hotels and apartments.
Lockyer argued that he introduced the bill because of his concern that cities with more than 50% public land are not "economically viable."
Under those circumstances, he contended, there could be "a potential for little rotten boroughs that get created that way."
Lockyer, who has not been to the marina, said he did not intend to have the bill focus on "local squabbles" such as Marina del Rey cityhood.
Nonetheless, Lockyer on Wednesday dropped another part of the bill on annexation after a dispute arose in his Northern California district. The provision would have blocked annexations unless at least 50% of the affected land is privately owned. After the bill was changed Wednesday, a vote was delayed for a week.
For the first time, the Marina del Rey Lessees Assn. expressed public support for the measure at the hearing.
Dennis E. Carpenter, a former Republican state senator from Orange County and now a lobbyist representing the lessees, said, "What you have in the marina, first of all, is almost like a giant yacht club. There are thousands of boats there. . . . This city would start with no tax base."
Clancy Leland, Los Angeles county's lobbyist, also supported the bill, saying marina cityhood "could limit or prevent current developments in Marina del Rey and reduce county revenues from these sources."
In addition, the bill is being backed by Jerry Zanelli, a lobbyist who once served as the executive officer of the Senate Rules Committee. Zanelli declined to name his client other than "someone with an interest in Marina del Rey." Zanelli said the name of his client would appear on his next lobbyist's report filed with the Secretary of State.
Opposition to the bill was led by the marina's lawmakers.
Assemblywoman Moore said her top concern is the way the bill "takes away the right of people to make decisions for themselves" on whether they want to form a city.
She conceded that there may be a legitimate concern on the economic viability of marina cityhood. But she asked that the incorporation drive not be short-circuited by the bill.
Sen. Watson said marina residents "are not rushing into cityhood to get rent control."
But Watson, her voice rising, added, "I think it's very clear to see that the lessees and the developers are people who want to be able to continue the control of this area and to continue to gouge people in terms of rent."
Watson also said that "to impose a state solution to a local problem is unjust."