The future of a self-described "poor man's" yacht club in Marina del Rey became uncertain after it was evicted from its clubhouse last weekend for falling behind on its monthly rent payments.
The demise of the 57-year-old South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club, whose members own smaller boats and pay less in annual dues than members of other yacht clubs in the Marina, has renewed a concern by some boat owners that boating facilities in general, and those for small boats in particular, are gradually being reduced in Marina del Rey.
Ralph Taylor, the South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club commodore, said the club had not paid its $2,000-a-month rent for 3 1/2 months. Taylor said the club's finances were so bad that it could not even mount a legal challenge to the eviction.
'Too Poor to Fight'
"We felt that the best course of action was to cooperate with the eviction because we are too poor to fight it," Taylor said. "However, we intend to pay the back rent."
Taylor said that until the club gets back on its feet financially, monthly meetings will be held at members' homes.
"A yacht club isn't a building, it's a group of people," he said. "But we do need a building to attract new members."
Taylor attributes the club's financial problems to a drop in membership. Two years ago the club had 200 members. Now there are 75. He said the rising cost of maintaining a boat has forced many small boat owners to keep their boats in dry storage. New people coming into boating, he said, are buying bigger boats and joining clubs with more amenities.
Taylor said the club considered raising its annual dues, which range from $60 to $400 but determined that an increase would result in a loss of members, rather than more revenue.
Most of the other yacht clubs in the Marina charge initiation fees, and annual dues of more than $1,000.
Victim of a Push
Taylor said that not all boat owners are wealthy and that a yacht club like the Corinthian is needed.
"You shouldn't have to be a millionaire to enjoy boating," he said.
Taylor said that although the club was rightfully evicted for falling behind on rent, it was also the victim of a push for higher revenue-producing facilities in Marina del Rey, the county's largest revenue producer, after property taxes.
"We're a victim of redevelopment," he said. "I'm really concerned whether there will be any room for boats at all in the future."
Patricia Younis, property manager for Marina International Properties, the master lessee of the parcel on Mindanao Way, said there are no specific plans for the parcel on which the yacht club is located.
Eric Bourdon, assistant director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said the demise of the Corinthian Yacht Club does not represent a trend.
In the past, the department has denied that it has made any attempt to reduce boating facilities, although last fall it supported a move by a master lessee to replace 157 slips designated for boats less than 30 feet long with 74 slips for boats longer than 30 feet. Both the county department and the master lessee said the change is necessary to meet the current market demand.
Other boat owners share Taylor's grim outlook for the future of boating in the Marina.
"I think it is a real shame that a small boat club has to go down because the land has become more important for uses other than boating," said Jerry Rowley, president of Pioneer Skippers Boat Owners Assn., a family boating organization that sponsors the annual Christmas Boat Parade in the Marina.
Kirk Scott, commodore of the Santa Monica Yacht Club, said he sees an effort by the county to raise more revenue from leaseholders. He said fees paid by the club to the county for slips were recently raised from 20 cents for every dollar in slip fees to 25.5 cents per dollar.
"If we had not negotiated when we did, it might have been 30 cents to the dollar," he said.
"It's very sad," said Betta Mortarotti, commodore of the California Yacht Club. "But perhaps it's a sign of the times."