With the expiration this year of the county's 6% limit on boat-slip fee increases at Marina del Rey, a developer has announced plans to raise rents as much as 55% on regular slips and nearly 100% on premium slips as of Jan. 1.
Abraham M. Lurie, president and board chairman of Real Property Management, said the new fees are being instituted to bring the company's 1,100 slips up to market value as allowed under a plan approved by the Board of Supervisors in 1984.
When the board eliminated rent control on apartments in Marina del Rey two years ago, it also decided to allow boat-slip fees to increase to market value to provide the county with more income from the marina.
Successive 6% increases were allowed in November, 1984; May, 1985; May, 1986, and November, 1986, with prices thereafter allowed to increase to market value.
Ted Reed, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said he has received no formal notice of rate changes from marina developers, but has heard informally of three, including Real Property Management, which are planning to increase their rates.
The department is preparing a comparative survey of boat-slip fees at marinas within a 60-mile radius of Marina del Rey, and these figures will be submitted to the county Small Craft Harbor Commission on Jan. 14.
Developers do not have to obtain express approval from the county for rate increases, but the Board of Supervisors can reject increases that it considers excessive.
Fred W. Ockrim, a boat owner who attended a meeting held by Real Property Management a few weeks ago to announce the new fee schedule, said boat owners are "in emotional and financial shock" over increases going into effect for slips at the Marina del Rey Hotel, Islander Marina and Pier 44.
He said the increases will force many middle-income boat owners out of the marina while generating excessive profits for developers.
"This creates tremendous profits for the lessees at the expense of the boat-slip renters," he said. "Their attitude is, 'If you can't afford boating, just get out.' "
Ockrim said many Southern California marinas are full and have waiting lists, so it is not easy for boat owners to find new accommodations for their vessels. "You can't just go out in the ocean and drop anchor and leave your boat adrift," he said.
Ockrim said his monthly fee for a regular 40-foot slip at Islander Marina will increase to $425 plus a newly added $20 monthly utility fee as of Jan. 1. This is a 44% increase from the former rent of $309 with no utility fee.
Fees for smaller slips are subject to smaller increases, he said, while 50-foot slips are increasing 55%, from the current $387.50 to $602.50, including a $32.50 monthly utility fee.
Jerry Rowley, a vice president of the Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Assn., said premium slips on the main channel will be subject to even greater charges that bring the cost to about $14 a foot, almost twice as much as the current allowable maximum of $7.75 a foot.
Increases Under Study
Pioneer Skippers' members are meeting with county officials and studying the new increases to determine what action they will take at the January harbor commission meeting, he said.
The supervisors' 1984 decision to phase out controls on boat-slip fee increases has the effect of "leaving a void for only the wealthy to come in," Rowley said.
Lurie said the increases he is instituting are in line with the supervisors' stated goal of maximizing revenues from county properties, including Marina del Rey.
Lessees return 20% of their boat-slip revenues to the county, he said. "A lot of low- and middle-income programs can be put into effect with those revenues," he said. "The board doesn't think they should have to subsidize the owners of big yachts (by keeping boat-slip fees low)."
Lurie said his definition of market rates is "whatever will create a 2% to 3% vacancy factor" among the slips.
Formula for Hikes
Currently, he said, Real Property Management has about 99% of its slips occupied, with the 1% vacancy occurring in the smaller slips. Therefore, he said, rate increases will be small for the smaller slips and larger for the larger slips, which are fully occupied and have long waiting lists.
Lurie said the new rates will be evaluated in a year. The only way to tell if they are too high is to see if boat owners accept them and stay, or object and leave, he said.
But this year will reflect the biggest single increase, with large increases needed because rates have been kept below market by the county until now, he said. In future years, increases are expected to be less dramatic, he said.
In a letter to the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, boat owner Ockrim suggested that if the increases are allowed they should be phased in over a period of 18 months to allow renters an opportunity to adjust their budgets.