The county Small Craft Harbor Commission has agreed to hire an outside firm to conduct an annual survey to determine whether Marina del Rey boat-slip fees are in line with those throughout Southern California.
The decision was made last week in response to criticisms by Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Assn., which claims that the county's own survey was faulty and led to approval of what boaters consider to be exorbitant fee increases.
Jerry Rowley, vice president of the group, contended that the county Department of Beaches and Harbors survey in January was "emasculated" when 11 lower-priced marinas--including about half the boat slips in Southern California--were eliminated from the study.
The deletion of the lower-priced slips skewed the survey results so that it appeared that Marina del Rey's rates are in line with others throughout Southern California, he said.
"Slip rates in Marina del Rey are not comparable to the area rates within 60 miles and are excessively higher than market rates," Rowley said in a report to the commission on Thursday.
"The new weighted average in Marina del Rey is $8.85 and still rising monthly," said Rowley, predicting that if current trends continue, slip fees will increase by 30% by the end of the year.
The $8.85 rate at Marina del Rey contrasts with $7.15 at 49 other Southern California marinas, according to the association report.
In a six-page memorandum submitted Thursday to the commission, Beaches and Harbors Department Director Ted Reed and Asst. Director Eric Bourdon defended the county's survey in a point-by-point response to the association's criticisms.
Reasons for Exclusion
Of several marinas that Pioneer Skippers said should have been included, Reed said that five were "substandard" and not considered comparable to Marina del Rey.
Another had only double slips and side ties and was not considered comparable, they said. One was due to close in June and was deleted from the survey, one was included under another name and four will be considered for inclusion in the next survey.
"The Pioneer Skippers' assertion that the survey data presented to the commission was 'emasculated' is not correct," Reed said in his report.
Under county policy, such surveys do not include rent-controlled marinas, he said. This procedure complies with a Board of Supervisors decision in 1984 to end price controls in Marina del 1382381856the county considers to be "market rates."
Pioneer Skippers contends that the prices at Marina del Rey are excessive. They said that 83% of Marina del Rey's slips are priced at more than $8 a foot and that only 12% of other slips in Southern California are priced that high.
Reed responded that the board's 1984 policy provides that "there is no requirement that any specific proportion of Marina del Rey slips should be at or below" other Southern California marina rates surveyed.
Pioneer Skippers has repeatedly told the commission that since boat-slip price controls were lifted in December, "an epidemic of price increases" has occurred at Marina del Rey.
In only two months, according to Pioneer Skippers, Marina del Rey's weighted average slip rate has increased 4.7%, to $8.85 a foot, compared to $8.45 in January.
The county in January calculated the weighted average among Southern California slips to be $7.98 a foot, while Pioneer Skippers, using a larger number of slips in its calculations, arrived at an average of $7.15.
Marina del Rey's higher-than-average price "reflects the high desirability of the Marina del Rey location" Reed said in his response to Pioneer Skippers.
Pioneer Skippers has been pressing for a reinstatement of boat-slip price controls, but the commission and staff have indicated they intend to abide by the supervisors' decision to end price controls.