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Panel Seeks to Maintain Condo Ban : Development: Marina City Club's financial problems reinforce the recommendation of the Small Craft Harbor Commission.


MARINA DEL REY — Against a backdrop of mounting financial problems at Marina del Rey's only condominium project, Los Angeles County's Small Craft Harbor Commission on Wednesday unanimously urged county supervisors to maintain a ban on conversion of more marina apartments to condos.

The commission's 3-0 decision came shortly before county officials disclosed publicly for the first time that Marina City Club developer Jerome Snyder has failed to pay $859,000 in overdue rent and is in default on his lease with the county.

Chris Klinger, deputy director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors, told reporters that Snyder, a major Los Angeles developer, has been experiencing cash flow problems and has not paid rent on the Marina City Club since November. Marina del Rey is public land, owned by the county, and businesses operate there on long-term leases with the county.

The county has not received payment of rent due on Marina City Club apartments, boat slips, condominiums, and a dining and athletic club, Klinger said.

Michael Wise, chief operating officer for the J. H. Snyder Co., said the company intends to resolve the default by next Monday's deadline imposed by the county.

"Certainly the real estate market has been very difficult, and the lack of our ability to finance the units has caused us some cash problems," Wise said in an interview.

The disclosure that Snyder has failed to pay his rent on the county-owned land beneath the high-rise condominium towers drew an anguished response from several Marina City Club condominium owners in the audience who have been complaining for months of mismanagement, maintenance and financial problems at the waterfront complex.

The discussion served to underscore conclusions of a commission report that conversion of the low-rise, wood-frame-and-stucco apartment buildings that contain the large majority of the marina's apartments would not be a great financial boon to the county.

At a public hearing in January, the controversial question of relaxing the current restrictions on condo conversion sharply divided marina residents and developers at a public hearing.

Some marina residents said the county's policy should be changed so they can buy their apartments. Other speakers sharply criticized condo conversion as a giveaway to developers that would inevitably displace tenants.

Supporters of condo conversion, including some developers of Marina del Rey apartment complexes, have pressed the supervisors to embrace the idea as a way to increase revenue to the county.

But the commission concluded otherwise. Commissioner Carole Stevens, who conducted the public hearing in January, said in a written report that the county had received only $14 million from conversion of the Marina City Club towers to condominiums out of $166 million in total sales.

"This may well indicate that it is time to re-evaluate the percentage income to the county," Stevens said. At present, the county receives 7.5% of the selling price of each condominium unit.

Stevens, who represents Supervisor Gloria Molina on the commission, noted in the report that, five years after they went on the market, only 530 of the 600 Marina City Club condominiums have been sold.

At the January hearing, Marina developer Jerry Epstein, operator of the Del Rey Shores apartments, said it makes no sense for the county to prohibit condo conversion. He warned that continuation of the ban would place the marina at a serious competitive disadvantage with newer developments planned nearby.

But in her report, Stevens took issue with Epstein, saying that "it seems ludicrous to believe that a converted wood or stucco remade condominium would be competitive" with the luxury units planned for the massive Playa Vista project next to Marina del Rey.

"The comparatively small number of rental units planned by Playa Vista should keep rental vacancies in Marina del Rey at a minimum, thus throwing off strong, steady revenue for the county," Stevens said.

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