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Boat Owners Gain Ally in Protest Over Rents

April 12, 1987|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

Under fire from boat owners who claim they are being subjected to exorbitant increases in boat-slip rental fees, the director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors said he plans to ask anchorage landlords to reduce the frequency with which fee increases are imposed.

Boat owners complained that fee increases have been instituted about every six months and that since county price controls were lifted Dec. 31, boat-slip fees have increased dramatically.

Ted Reed, director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors, said he will take up the fee hikes with marina leaseholders.

Boat owner Jim Monahan appeared before the county Small Craft Harbor Commission last week to protest a 32.5% increase this year in his fees on a 36-foot boat. He said that because of a shortage of other available boat slips in Southern California, "I'm a captive audience. I have no place to go except dry land."

Another boater, Rick Ermshar, said that for a 35% cheaper monthly fee, he could move his 28-foot sailboat to a deluxe new anchorage in San Diego that offers a wide range of services and facilities not provided at Marina del Rey.

Commission Chairman Martin Boran told Ermshar he should move his boat to San Diego if he can get a better deal there.

After the meeting, members of Pioneer Skipper Boat Owners Assn. expressed indignation at what they characterized as the commissioner's "take it or leave it" attitude.

Jerry Rowley, a vice president of the organization, has repeatedly argued before the commission that because Marina del Rey is a public facility, it should remain accessible to residents of all income levels.

Recent boat-slip fee increases, he has warned, "will force many mid-income families out of boating."

County officials and Pioneer Skippers members seem to be at an impasse over how to interpret provisions of the county's master lease, which governs marina leaseholders who operate local anchorages, apartments and businesses.

Differing Interpretations

The Pioneer Skippers group contends that Section 16 of the lease limits lessees to a fair and reasonable return on their investment. The county argues that the lease section "protects the lessee from confiscatory implementation of the lease control provision by assuring an adequate return on investment."

The boat owners' organization also contends the County Board of Supervisors' decision to end price controls on Dec. 31, 1986, has been improperly interpreted as overriding a 1977 compromise document called Policy Statement 27, which set up procedures for determining boat-slip fees.

The result has been "excessive and prohibitive increases in slip rents," Rowley said Wednesday in his statement to the commission.

In response to Pioneer Skippers' criticisms of the county's procedures for authorizing boat-slip fee increases, Reed has agreed to hire an outside appraiser to review the county's January, 1987, survey of slip fees at other marinas and to prepare future annual surveys.

According to Pioneer Skippers' calculations, fees at Marina del Rey recently averaged $8.85 a foot, with the average price increasing as more anchorages raise their rates. According to Pioneer Skippers, the average rate at 49 other Southern California anchorages is $7.15

Acceptable Rates

The county contends that rates at the marina may be higher than at other anchorages but that they are acceptable because they fall within the range of rates found at other marinas within a 60-mile radius.

In addition, county officials claim that higher prices are justified at Marina del Rey because of its prime location in the heart of the Los Angeles Basin.

The increased fees apparently have prompted some boat owners to leave Marina del Rey. At Wednesday's meeting, Reed said he is concerned about reports of vacancies among 26-foot and smaller slips. He said he plans to talk to lessees to determine whether "some adjustment needs to take place" in the fees.

At Wednesday's hearing, Pioneer Skippers reiterated that they want fees to be based on the dock and water area that their vessels occupy, so that owners of large boats will pay proportionally more than owners of smaller boats. Instead, lessees are charging by the lineal foot and adding a square-footage fee, according to Pioneer Skippers.

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