Hundreds of boat dwellers in Marina del Rey are hoping Katherine Campbell's eviction case, which opened Thursday in Culver City Superior Court, will turn the tide in their favor as they battle county officials over the right to live aboard their vessels.
Tahiti Marina, which leases about 250 boat slips from the county, is suing Campbell for refusing to vacate the slip where she has lived on her boat for seven years. Marina officials served her with a 30-day eviction notice in January.
However, Campbell's attorney, Kenneth H. Carlson, contends that marina officials violated a state law that entitles tenants of "floating homes" to 60 days' notice and specific reasons for eviction.
About 10% of the 6,000 boats in Marina del Rey are so-called live-aboards. County officials since the mid-1990s have pushed to evict the houseboats, saying the marina was not designed for permanently docked vessels.
The current trial centers on whether Campbell's home should be considered a live-aboard boat or--as she wants--a floating home, a distinction that could delay or possibly even prevent her eviction.
Campbell testified Thursday that when she removed "anything that had to do with motorizing the vessel," and built an apartment on it, the structure became a "floating home."
A floating home is a structure designed to float but not to travel.
If Superior Court Judge Allan Goodman rules in Campbell's favor in the civil case, as he did in a related 1998 case, the standard for permitting houseboat dwellers could change to benefit people living on boats. Goodman is expected to rule in late July.
Some marina-area residents have complained that the live-aboards attract a seedy element and bring down property values.
The county in the mid-1990s gave about 60 existing floating homes permission to stay at the marina but banned all others.
People who occupy a vessel at a dock for 72 consecutive hours in any week are considered live-aboards and must apply for live-aboard permits.