Tenants at the Tahiti Marina apartment complex in Marina del Rey are on the warpath over rent increases of up to $330 a month.
Renters crowded into the county Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting at the marina on Wednesday to protest back-to-back monthly increases that raised their rents 25% to 30%.
"This is creating havoc with a lot of people on fixed incomes who cannot afford to pay that kind of rent," said tenant Charles Sanford. He said that when he moved into the Tahiti Marina complex in 1974 his rent was $400 and now is $1,200.
Another resident said privately that her rent has been raised to $1,735, a $235-increase from the $1,500 she has been paying for the three-bedroom apartment she rented in January.
Tenants said that just after a hefty increase was announced for Sept. 1, a new landlord took over the project and raised the rent again, effective Oct. 1.
Until recently, the 149-unit complex was controlled by the Tahiti Marina Co., which acquired the lease for $10 million in 1981, residents said. The project was taken over this year for $22 million by a company called 13900 Tahiti Harbor Ltd.
Tenants criticized the county for failing to secure a share of the $12-million profit in the lease-transfer deal. County officials said this was not possible under provisions of the master lease signed 25 years ago when the marina opened under a joint agreement between the county and private developers.
As the original agreements expire and the county negotiates new long-term contracts, the county will seek its share of lease-transfer profits, the commissioners said.
At Wednesday's meeting, a spokesman for the new landlord said that rents at Tahiti Marina for years have lagged behind those charged elsewhere in the marina.
Even with the new increases, Tahiti Marina rents are as much as $400 a month below market rates, said Gene Johnson of G. J. Property Services, a firm hired to manage the apartment complex.
Officials of the Department of Beaches and Harbors said their preliminary figures show Tahiti Marina to be in the "mid-range" of marina rents.
Commissioner Louis Rogers was applauded by tenants when he urged that rent increases at Tahiti Marina be limited to one a year.
Tenants said they have not been told when rents will be raised again. Some said that when they requested a one-year lease, they were refused.
The commission asked for a staff report comparing rents at Tahiti Marina with those at other complexes in the marina.
However, beyond that, there may be nothing that the commission can do. The county's rent control law expired Jan. 1, 1986, and the county no longer regulates rents.
The conservative-dominated Board of Supervisors has directed that maximum revenues should be harvested from county assets, including the marina and its rental revenues.
For the county to allow below-market rents in the marina would amount to subsidizing tenants at the expense of taxpayers county-wide, county officials said.