Hy Tucker, 69, flew 400 miles to Sacramento in an attempt to persuade state senators to vote against a bill that would prevent cityhood in Marina del Rey. Not only did Tucker fail (the bill passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly) but he found himself being called a "yuppie."
"It's greedy, rich yuppies who want to create a city on public land," said Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward), the original sponsor of the bill. Lockyer said young urban professionals want a city created so they can impose rent control to save themselves money.
Angered by Answer
That was more than Tucker, a grandfather who is president of Marina del Rey Cityhood Inc. and retired, could stand.
"I wanted to spit in his eye," Tucker said recently. "The man had never been down here or even seen the marina. He admitted that. I said give me the definition of a yuppie, because I don't even know what it means."
When the debate shifts to the Assembly, the question of just who does live in Marina del Rey is sure to follow. Although demographics partly uphold the legislators' perception of the marina, they also reveal a population of middle- and lower-income residents, many of them senior citizens who moved into the marina several years ago and are fighting to stay on.
Many see cityhood as their only hope.
In the 1980 census, 52% of marina residents were listed as either executives or professionals, compared to just 25% in Los Angeles County as a whole. And the median household income was $27,000, almost 50% higher than the rest of the county. The income figure was projected to rise to $44,000 by last year.
BMWs, Mercedeses and other late-model cars parked in marina apartment garages hint at the high incomes in the area.
Amid the well-off singles who seem to follow the old stereotypes in the marina is a smaller group made up of senior citizens on fixed incomes and middle-income wage earners.
According to the census, 19% of the marina's residents are 55 or older and 20% of the households have incomes of less than $15,000 a year. About 320 people, or 4%, live below the poverty level.
They are among the marina apartment dwellers hit this year with rent increases as high as 45%, after the county's rent control law expired. And, not coincidentally, they are among the most active supporters of cityhood.
"These are tenants who have lived in the marina for years," said LaVaun Vawter, a leader of the cityhood group. "But they are finding it more and more difficult to stay. Many have already left because of the spiraling rents."
This is the stable Marina del Rey community, which forms civic groups, puts on art shows and supports the community, Vawter said. They will move out and be replaced by transient executives and salesmen who often do not stay long enough to add anything to the community, she said.
One couple talked about the difficulty of meeting rent increases on a fixed income. Like many of those interviewed by The Times, they asked that their names be withheld because they said they fear retaliation by their landlords.
Although in their 70s, they still enjoy an active life that includes bicycling, swimming and tennis. They do not want to leave the marina.
But the couple recently received a notice that on Nov. 1 their rent will increase from $752 to $915 a month. If they want new carpets and drapes, they have been advised, the rent will be raised to $1,025, or 36% above the current rent.
"We could afford it for a year, but if they are going to raise it above that, it is very much out of the question," the wife said. "It's pretty steep."
The couple lives on Social Security, interest from savings and the husband's occasional work as a substitute community college teacher.
They have applied for county-sponsored rent mediation sessions in the hope of reducing the increase. Although their carpet has worn through in spots, they do not want to pay the $110 more a month demanded by the landlord just for new carpet and drapes.
The couple supports cityhood. "I think the people who pay so much rent and are good citizens deserve voice in the government," she said. "And right now the government is monopolized by the developers and the Board of Supervisors. We have no say, no autonomy at all."
In another case, a 68-year-old woman who lives in the Marina Harbor apartments said she has been told that her rent will rise from $498 to $590 in September and to $775 sometime next year.
Living on $579 a month in Social Security and savings, she is afraid that she will have to leave her home of 11 years. "It would be very, very tight to stay here," she said. "We moved in here to make it our home. We are not fly-by-nights or anything. There certainly should be some consideration for an old-time tenant. And I think (the landlords) just don't care."