By Helga Gendell

FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE, 1964 (Photo courtesy of the Marina del Rey Historical Society)

FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE, 1964 (Photo courtesy of the Marina del Rey Historical Society)

Part VI of the Marina del Rey history covers the beginning emergence of slip tenants as a constituent group in the Marina’s policy making, reflected by boater-related matters such as slip rental rates, slip rental agreements and the construction of a do-it-yourself boat yard.

The following information is cited from “The Urban Marina: Managing and Developing Marina del Rey” by Marsha V. Rood and Robert Warren.

By the 1960s, non-resident boat slip renters raised a series of issues that proved difficult in many cases, for the existing management system at the time to resolve.

Points of conflict included questions of excessively high moorage fees, preferential parking for Marina residents, inadequate parking, lack of a do-it-yourself boat repair area, and county authority to regulate lessee operation of moorages.

In addition, the priority of high-revenue producing activities over more publicly oriented land and water uses came under severe criticism from several groups.

In their first efforts, groups representing these new issues faced considerable difficulty in gaining recognition in the Marina decision-making processes.

A management system that has evolved to further one set of priorities is frequently resistant to legitimizing new ones, particularly if it requires giving status to interests (those of non-resident boaters) that may conflict with those already participating in management decisions (the lessees).

SLIP TENANTS AS “CITIZENS” OF THE MARINA —

The major issues that developed in the post-1968 period have involved policy questions concerning the use of existing facilities and the inclusion of boater interests in management decisions.

The status of boaters, until recently, has been defined in terms of their positions as sub-lessees.

In effect, this means that the primary relationship of the boater is with the yacht club or the moorage operator rather than with the Department of Small Craft Harbors. This relationship is in contrast to the prime lessees who work more directly with the county.

When many slip renters began to initiate policy questions in the late 1960s, a number of ambiguities immediately became evident concerning their status and rights.

The ensuing conflicts and polarization of some slip renters have resulted in a much more visible and substantive role for boaters in the management process.

A distinction is drawn in the study between the approximately 2,000 people holding slips through yacht club memberships and those who hold non-commercial subleases from commercial moorages.

The two largest clubs, the Del Rey Yacht Club and the California Yacht Club are prime lessees and the other four clubs hold commercial subleases. The clubs, as a result, have control over policy making for the use of their own slip facilities.

Either through shared values, membership participation in decisions, or competition for members, the clubs have been responsive to boating interests and as commercial lessees or sub-lessees have had a recognized status in the overall Marina management system.

Most of the remaining 4,000 slip tenants who hold individual, non-commercial subleases rent from firms that are virtually free to make their own rules and regulations concerning the use of their facilities.

It may not be surprising that the interests and values of slip tenants (particularly live-aboards or traditional boaters) and those of profit and development-oriented entrepreneurs might differ at times.

The primary organization representing these boaters is the Pioneer Skippers with a current membership of over 1,000. It was established in 1963 as a social organization and didn’t become seriously involved in management questions until recently.

SLIP RENTAL RATES —

The cost of moorage space in the Marina became a matter of controversy in early 1970. It represents the first major issue the Pioneer Skippers became involved in, but has not yet been resolved satisfactorily from the Skippers’ point of view.

The prices charged by lessees for goods and services within the Marina are subject to regulation by the county.

Section 16 of the standard agreement states that the costs for such goods and services shall be both “fair and reasonable” for the public and allow lessees a “fair and reasonable” return on their investment.

The same section makes the director of the Department of Small Craft Harbors responsible for enforcing the provision and delegates authority to the director to inform a lessee if any prices are found to be unfair or unreasonable.

The lessee can object to the director’s finding, but is required to accept his or hers subsequent determination. An appeal can be made to the Board of Supervisors, but under the terms of the standard lease, their action is final and conclusive.

A call for the director to use this authority in relation to boat slip charges and a vigorous demand for better representation of boaters in Marina policy decisions was made by spokespersons for the Pioneer Skippers.

At the Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting of February 1970, a member of the Skippers made it quite clear that boaters as a group “want to be heard. We want to have a voice. We want to be a party to decisions made in this MarinaÖ We also have an interest in the overall development of the MarinaÖ We have appointed ourselves until there is another spokesman to present our position in the Marina. We will be glad to step aside when someone else comes along.”

The Skippers charged that unreasonable price increases had occurred while service levels had steadily decreased. The group further claimed that moorage operators were giving apartment dwellers preferential treatment for parking spaces in spite of the severe parking shortages for non-resident slip renters on peak usage days.

As a result of the Skippers’ charges and a follow-up request by the group’s attorney that “boaters be a party to the decisions made as they affect boat owners,” the department established an advisory Price Review Committee in March 1970.

Five boat-owner representatives, including one member of the Skippers, and three lessee representatives were appointed to the group.

The operation of that committee through the spring brought the Skippers little satisfaction. During this period, the boater organization urged the Board of Supervisors to impose rent ceilings, alleging that there had been, “A deliberate and systematic unfair treatment of the boaters by certain lessees which shows that the county has chosen to exercise little control to protect the public from profiteering.”

Frustration had reached a high enough point in June 1970 that the president of the Skippers stated that the Small Craft Harbor Commission was “in business with the lesseesÖ” who operated the anchorages and were benefiting from high slip rates.

When that commission asked the group to provide a list of its members as evidence of its right to speak for boaters, the group refused to comply out of fear that there might be lessee reprisals against individuals.

The Skippers further expressed its disappointment with the committee by pointing out that eight of the 17 moorages in the Marina had raised their rates since the price review body had been established.

Unlike its reaction to the John and Willie Hjorth case (Argonaut, April 29th), the Skippers went on to become involved in another slip tenant case. Many members expressed concern that the future of all boat owners was at stake because eviction without cause was allowed in a second and more protracted conflict in October 1971 when the same Tahiti Marina issued more new and more restrictive conditions for leasing slips.

Ponty-Fenmore, operator of Tahiti Marina, issued new and more restrictive conditions for letting a slip including:

Persons cannot live aboard their boats for periods longer than three days;

Dogs are forbidden aboard boats and on docks, and tenants who violate this rule face immediate eviction;

Boat maintenance and repair are forbidden. This included use of paint remover, painting of topsides, burning of paints and spray guns. The anchorage management will be the sole judge of what constitutes ordinary maintenance;

Tenants will be assessed an additional one dollar per day for each day they are late with their slip rents after the first ten days;

The dock master has the right to move a boat to a different slip from the one that was originally rented;

Those who leave their boats more than 30 days without paying rent will be assessed $20 a day for each day they are in possession of their slip; and

The anchorage operator may file a possessory lien against a boat and its contents if the terms of the lease are violated. The tenant who takes action against the anchorage operator must agree to pay the anchorage attorney’s fees of not less than $250.

These requirements eliminated living aboard boats as a lifestyle and gave the lessee extraordinary discretion in moorage operations.

The Marina del Rey Historical Society is compiling memorabilia for its collection. If you have photos, documents or any special memory of the Marina you would like to share, please contact the society at (310) 578-1001, or mdrhistory@verizon.net/.

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