A state commission that evaluates cityhood applications decided Wednesday that Marina del Rey residents should not be allowed to vote on incorporating as an independent city.
Members of the Los Angeles County branch of the Local Agency Formation Commission said their unanimous decision was based on the belief that cityhood proponents are interested in forming a local government mostly as a means of establishing rent control. Commissioners said they saw no justification for carving a city out of publicly owned territory occupied by tenants.
"I believe that the purpose (of the application) is rather narrow," said Commissioner Hal Bernson, who represents Los Angeles on the commission. "And we have to take into consideration the needs of the rest of the county."
The 1.5-square-mile unincorporated area includes the 804-acre marina, where the county rents small-craft berths to boaters and has leased land to developers for apartments, hotels, stores, offices and restaurants. About 15% of the proposed city is owned by Summa Corp.
The commission was forced to consider cityhood after residents submitted 1,468 marina voters' signatures last month. Proponents of incorporation said they wanted local control so they could contain soaring rents, but they also said a municipal government could better fight crime, limit high-rise development and deal with traffic problems.
The denial apparently leaves cityhood backers with no recourse but the courts--and at least one major cityhood opponent expects the battleground to shift there next.
"I would be surprised if they didn't file a lawsuit," said Robert R. Leslie, executive vice president of the Marina del Rey Lessees Assn. If the commission had approved the marina's application, the Board of Supervisors would have been required to schedule an election.
But cityhood backers said the commission action will not end their campaign to incorporate the marina. "The issues are still there and we will continue forward in our quest," said Stuart Simon, a director of Marina del Rey Cityhood Inc.
A lawsuit, Simon said, is "certainly one option." He added that the cityhood group is exploring other possible actions, but would not elaborate. "We have a few surprises in store," he said.
Future efforts to form a city of Marina del Rey would face even more obstacles than this one has. The incorporation group gathered its signatures just before new rules took effect governing cityhood in areas where more than 50% of the land is publicly owned. The legislation, which Gov. Deukmejian signed last October, allows the county Board of Supervisors to derail a cityhood attempt in such cases merely by objecting to the state commission.
Supervisor Deane Dana, whose 4th District includes the marina, opposes cityhood there. Supervisor Pete Schabarum is a member of the state commission and voted against the application Wednesday.
Hy Tucker, president of the cityhood group, said he had expected the commission's denial, despite his plea for a postponement. Tucker and consultant Fred Christensen told the commission they had not been able to get enough information to complete an analysis of the finances of a city of Marina del Rey.
"They had made up their minds,' said Tucker.
Though a commission staff report said a city of Marina del Rey would not be able to pay for municipal services, Christensen said he questioned that conclusion. The consultant, who formerly headed the commission's Sacramento County staff, said the marina report left out several sources of revenue and included some costs, such as waterways law enforcement, for which the county should be responsible.