Santos Kreimann, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors told the county Small Craft Harbor Commission at its meeting Wednesday, May 13th, that public comments on the boat slip sizing/pricing study for Marina del Rey will be included in the study report, and the item will be scheduled for next month’s meeting.

During public comment, the issue of not including Esprit I in the boat slip study was mentioned as skewing the results, and public speakers said it should have been included since it has been open for almost a year. Resident Carla Andrus said that Esprit I still has a very low occupancy rate.

Consultants to the county had stated at a previous meeting that because pricing at Esprit I was high, it would have skewed the results in the opposite direction.

Russ Lesser, chair of the Small Craft Harbor Commission said, “What would I do if I were a lessee with empty boat slips? I would advertise.”

Some speakers alleged that there were 33 empty boat slips at the Holiday Harbor marina, that boaters were told to leave, and that they are not renting because they are trying to show the California Coastal Commission there is no need for small boat slips, and that this marina is looking for larger boats to rent slips.

Only Holiday Harbor and Pier 44 have high vacancy rates, said boat owner Jon Nahhas.

“You can’t just eliminate 33 boat slips and say they don’t exist,” said Nahhas.

One speaker said that boats are now using the seawall at Holiday Harbor to anchor because these boaters don’t have slips.

Kreimann said the reality is that the Holiday Harbor lessee is trying to obtain a coastal permit to replace docks, and that they don’t want to rent to boaters only to evict them when the repairs begin.

Boaters would be directed to other anchorages to find slips, said Kreimann.

Commission member Al Landini, Jr. asked Andrus what the purpose would be to not rent out small slips.

Andrus explained, saying, “The real estate team had been called in and figured out if you eliminate small boats, you eliminate management problems and big boats bring in big money. It’s a win for the county and developers but nothing but hell for boaters.”

Andrus said that boats in slips that aren’t being paid for, such as many abandoned boats, should be counted as vacancies.

Nahhas said, “We need to look at the Coastal Act and the affordability to all 13 million citizens of the county.”

“The problem is that we don’t hear from the commissioners. Not one of you asks why those small boat slips aren’t being rented,” said Nahhas.

Nahhas alleged that it’s not about the bad economy, and that everyone knew that. “In 2007 we said 50 to 60 percent increase in slip rates is unreasonable and outrageous. That’s the problem, prices increase and increase, others think it’s about the economy.”

Kreimann said that a market rate review had been done, and that’s what came back in the survey.

Nahhas said that this was like looking at the market value of a house, which differs from the real value.

Kreimann said that as a steward of public assets for 13 million residents in the county and boating community, he needs to develop the marina for all segments, small, medium and large, and that balance was needed.

He said that the consultants surveyed various marinas and he believes the slip mix and prices are solid findings.

Kreimann said that it is disingenuous to focus on one segment of the boating community and that he didn’t have that luxury.

Beaches and Harbors inherited Parcel 47 (Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club) and had an option to purchase the Parcel 45 dock next to it, said Kreimann.

A dock reconfiguration plan was submitted at the meeting, and Kreimann said it takes a look at the entire peninsula to come up with a dock plan, which will be presented to the public and the commission for comments.

The following dock reconfiguration plan is from county documentation.

BURTON CHACE PARK DOCK RECONFIGURATION PLAN —

The dock reconfiguration plan includes the water area of Parcels EE (Chace Park), Parcel 45 (waterside area to be acquired from Parcel 44 lessee; Parcel 47 (former Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club docks, Parcel 48 (The Boathouse), Parcel Parcel 77 and Parcel 49 (launch ramps).

All of the existing docks are to be replaced with new modern concrete docks in a phased replacement program to be carried out over several years. Due to the poor condition of the existing slips, the first phase will begin with the westerly end of Parcel 47 and continue in phases to the easterly end of Parcel 45, with the current slips at Parcels EE, 48 and 77 to follow. Timing for reconstruction of the launch ramps at Parcel 49 is contingent on funding, which is presently being pursued.

Parcels 45 and 47 currently contain 332 slips, 110 of which are in double slips (55 double slips), and have an average slip size of 27.33 feet. The proposed plan increases the average slip size to 37.05 feet, and reduces the number of slips to 188 slips, resulting in a loss of 144 smaller slips.

The county-operated transient slips in Parcel EE will be reconfigured and expanded from 23 existing slips to 30, 32-foot slips, 12 of which will be located on the adjacent Parcel 48 and are currently only available to the Department of Beaches and Harbors and the Sea Scouts.

Also, there will be 14 additional 57-foot slips available at Parcel EE for month-to-month use in the future. An additional 190 feet of side tie dock space will be added at Parcel EE for a total of 550 feet, which will be used to accommodate larger transient boats and summer season Waterbus docking.

At Parcel 48, a 140-foot side tie dock will be available for four-hour transient use and another 142-foot side tie will be available for other purposes.

Parcel 77 originally had 14, 28-foot slips that were removed over ten years ago, well before the county gained control of the parcel. The one remaining dock will be replaced with a 485-foot floating dock that can store up to 20 rowing shells from 25 feet to 65 feet long and 162 small boats up to 18 feet long in a system of racks built on the dock, which will allow for easy launching and retrieval. This space will be available for both public month-to-month use and the department’s program use.

The department proposes to add a fourth launch ramp at Parcel 49 that can be used as a dinghy dock or a staging dock.

In other business, Beverly Moore, executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that while the economy has affected tourism, Marina del Rey has continued to hold its own, and 2008 ended well with a 75-percent room occupancy rate at a rate of $192 per night.

She said there is some downturn in 2009, but the Marina has only lost $10 per average room rate, dropping ten to 15 percent, while Santa Monica has experienced a $100 per room rate loss.

Marina del Rey is known as an affordable community and a great location near Los Angeles International Airport, she said. Business and private partners in the community are working together to offer new discounts, added values, special promotions and incentives to groups such as meeting planners and trade show representatives, going for 50 to 100 customers at one time with free or discounted services to these groups.

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