Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Assn. claims that the county Department of Beaches and Harbors deliberately skewed its survey of Southern California boat-slip prices to show that Marina del Rey's rates are comparable with those at other marinas.
At a meeting last week of the county Small Craft Harbor Commission, boaters said the county "emasculated" the survey by eliminating from it more than half of the boat slips in Southern California.
The county annually conducts a survey of marinas within a 60-mile radius of Marina del Rey to see how its boat-slip fees compare with those area-wide.
The survey has attracted special interest this year because it reflects fee increases that have been imposed by marina landlords since county boat-slip price controls expired on Dec. 31.
With the expiration of controls, anchorage landlords have instituted big price increases at Marina del Rey, according to the boat owners' organization.
These increases bring Marina del Rey's average slip fee to $8.60 a foot, compared to an average of $7.15 a foot at 49 other Southern California marinas, according to a survey conducted by Pioneer Skippers.
County Found $7.98 a Foot
The contested county survey showed an average price of $7.98 a foot at 25 marinas.
Gerald Winston, a statistics consultant who analyzed data for Pioneer Skippers' study, said the largest proportion of slips at Marina del Rey are in higher-price categories, while lower-price slips predominate at marinas in the rest of Southern California. For example, Winston said, 15% of the slips at Marina del Rey cost $10 a foot or more and 68% cost $8.01 to $9.99 a foot. By contrast, at other marinas, only 2% cost $10 or more and the majority of the slips (69%) cost $7 or less, he said.
Jerry Rowley, vice president of Pioneer Skippers, charged that the county Department of Beaches and Harbors skewed its survey by deleting 11 marinas from a list of 36 studied in previous years.
Department Director Ted Reed said the 11 marinas were omitted this year because they are rent controlled, and thus could not properly be compared to Marina del Rey where price controls have been lifted. Reed said that as a result of decontrol, "Marina del Rey rates reflect current market rates."
At Wednesday's meeting, Rowley said the department manipulated the survey to show that the county's decontrol plan had worked and had brought rates at Marina del Rey into line with those areawide.
Asks Time for Review
Reed said he and his staff could not respond to Pioneer Skippers' allegations until they had an opportunity to review the group's 20-page report submitted Wednesday to the commission. "We will be glad to look at the report and analyze it for the commission's next meeting (March 11), but I can't comment further at this time," he said.
Also, in a surprise move apparently prompted by the public outcry over boat-slip fee increases, one landlord announced that planned increases for 22- and 24-foot boat slips will be rescinded, and a $7.50-a-foot fee will be charged instead. The Real Property Management official said he was not sure how much of a decrease this was from rates announced earlier.
WillieA. Hjorth, Pioneer Skippers president, dismissed the company's announcement as "good PR (public relations)" designed to gain sympathy for the company while it holds the line on the remainder of its rate increases, some as much as 100%.
"The demise of family boating is our great concern," Hjorth said. "Current boating enthusiasts and future generations of Los Angeles citizens are being priced out" of Marina del Rey, shesaid.
Earlier in the meeting, the Small Craft Harbor Commission endorsed Pioneer Skippers' proposal that boat-slip fees be calculated on the basis of the square footage a boat occupies rather than its length alone.
The staff had reviewed the proposal and found that the square-foot method "would provide a more equitable method" of calculating fees. The linear method provides an unfair advantage to large boats, which occupy more width as well as length, they said.
The commission cannot require marina landlords to use the square-footage method, but can only suggest they do so, Reed said.