At the request of the Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Assn., the county Small Craft Harbor Commission has agreed to study a new method of calculating boat slip fees based on the square footage of a slip rather than the length alone.
The current method of pricing favors large boats over smaller boats, according to Jerry Rowley, vice president of Pioneer Skippers.
Larger boats require not only longer slips but wider ones. A rate calculation based only on length costs larger boats proportionately less than smaller boats, he said.
For example, at $8.19 a linear foot, a 22-foot boat pays $180 and a 50-foot boat pays $410. The 22-foot boat takes up 310 square feet and pays 58 cents a square foot, while the 50-foot boat occupies 1,225 square feet and pays only 33 cents a square foot, Rowley said in his report to the commission.
"The relatively small (number) of gold-plated yachts owned by the rich and famous are being berthed at Marina del Rey at the expense of the family boater," he said.
The commission's decision to order the study was only a partial victory for the boat owners association, however.
Members crowded into a small hearing room at the county's marina headquarters last week to ask for a rollback of sharp increases in boat-slip fees that nine anchorage leaseholders imposed Jan. 1, when county controls expired. But the commission did not consider the request.
Ted Reed, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said that in 1984 the Board of Supervisors voted to end county controls on boat slip fees by Jan. 1, 1987, saying the fees should be allowed to float to "market value."
In an interview after the commission meeting, Reed said the Board of Supervisors is unlikely to reimpose controls on boat-slip fees.
That leaves the county with the problem of defining "market value."
It won't be easy. At Wednesday's meeting, department staff members, anchorage leaseholders and boat owners presented a dizzying array of conflicting statistics contrasting boat-slip fees at Marina del Rey with those at 36 other anchorages in Southern California.
The county recently completed a survey of 36 anchorages within a 60-mile radius of Marina del Rey, and found rates ranging from $5.50 a foot at Peninsula Yacht Anchorage in Channel Island Harbor to $13.98 in Newport Arches Marina in Newport Bay.
From the original list of 36, Reed deleted 11 rent-controlled marinas. He then calculated $7.98 a foot as the mean rate for boat slip fees among the remaining 25 anchorages. Reed said he deleted the rent-controlled marinas because the county is trying to establish a rate based on the free market.
But boater spokesman Gerald Winston, an accountant and statistician, argued that Reed acted improperly because all 36 marinas had been included in every county study done in the past. By eliminating the 11 lower-priced marinas (which have 7,391 slips), he said, Reed skewed the study results to make Marina del Rey's new rates appear to be more in line with other anchorages.
In his report to the commission, Reed said the mean rate (halfway between the highest and lowest rates) at Marina del Rey is $8.45 a foot, compared to $7.98 a foot for the 25 harbors surveyed by the county.
Although higher than 85% of the slip rates studied, the marina's rates are within the current range of $5.50 to $13.98, Reed said. And because of the marina's prime location, its rates should be at the higher end of the scale, he said. "I can only conclude that the 1984 program to phase in Marina del Rey boat slip rates to market level has been successful and that Marina del Rey rates reflect current market rates," Reed said.
Boaters said if all 36 anchorages were included in the results of the county's study, the mean rate would be $7.23 a foot, not $7.98, making Marina del Rey's rate higher in comparison.
Firm Increased Fees
On Jan. 1, Real Property Management, which operates 1,100 slips in the marina, increased fees that amount to $12 a foot on a 50-foot boat and as much as $22 a foot if premium location and live-aboard fees are included, boaters said.
Abraham M. Lurie, president and chairman of Real Property, said at Wednesday's hearing that the company's increases ranged from 5% or 10% on the smaller slips to 100% (from $800 a month to $1,600) on a few premium slips on the main channel.
Boat owners complained that in spite of the sharp increases, Real Property's anchorage facilities need substantial repair or replacement. "This is not the Monte Carlo of marinas," said boater Rick Ermshar.
Last month, commission member Mark Nathanson urged the marina to keep its facilities in top shape because of expected competition from Summa Corp's Playa Vista project, which is still in the planning stages. It's expected to include 700 to 900 boat slips just south of Marina del Rey.
Reed said in an interview that county inspectors have reported that Real Property is completing repairs ordered by the harbor department.
The commission, which meets again Feb. 11, has asked Reed to report any vacancies that may result from the rate hikes because the county receives 20% of the slip fees.
Rowley of Pioneer Skippers said that because of the scarcity of available slips in Southern California marinas, owners cannot easily find other places to keep their boats.