By Helga Gendell
Part VII of the Marina del Rey history covers a boater’s lawsuit against the lessee, Ponty-Fenmore, operator of Tahiti Marina, after the issuance of new and more restrictive conditions for leasing boat slips.
These requirements eliminated living aboard a boat as a lifestyle and gave the lessee extraordinary discretion in moorage operations.
As a point of reference regarding Los Angeles County officials’ recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors about Marina del Rey, a September 6th, 1970 Los Angeles Times staff-authored article titled “Officials Object to More Marina Parking,” stated, “County officials have recommended to the Board of Supervisors against the proposed acquisition ‘at this time’ of additional parking lot space at Marina del Rey.
“In a report to be considered by the board Tuesday, September 8th, officials urged supervisors to:
“1 – Forego at this time any idea of condemning private property bordering Fiji Way at the marina’s south boundary; and
“2 – Postpone any action on acquiring more parking facilities pending a study by Victor Gruen and Associates on how to provide better transportation and traffic movement for the entire marina.”
The article continues, “The Gruen firm has been awarded an $18,000 contract, with instructions to report by July 1st, 1971.”
“Joining in preparing the preliminary report on whether another parking district at Marina del Rey is feasible were Lindon S. Hollinger, chief administrative officer; County Counsel John D. Maharg; Arthur G. Will, director of the Department of Real Estate Management; and Irvin L. Morhar, county road commissioner.”
The Los Angeles Times article goes on to state, “The two-page report, prepared at the request of Supervisor Burton W. Chace, made these points:”
“1 — The idea of acquiring more private land for marina parking is feasible, ‘but only by direct condemnation. Extensive discussions with representatives of the land owners regarding the (possible) lease of the land for a parking lot have had negative results;’”
“2 — Estimated cost of the land and development for parking purposes ranges from $200,000 to $400,000. A minimum of two years would be needed to get condemnation proceedings before a court, and the proceedings could take longer if the owners actively oppose condemnation;”
“3 — Some existing county-owned parking areas at the Marina presently go unused;” and
“4 — The Gruen study may produce recommendations for additional needs or for better utilization of existing or potential parking areas.”
The following information is cited from “The Urban Marina: Managing and Developing Marina del Rey” by Marsha V. Rood and Robert Warren.
Ponty-Fenmore’s action was immediately protested by Robert Feldman, a live-aboard at the Tahiti Marina, at the October 1971 meeting of the county Small Craft Harbor Commission.
Feldman presented a petition signed by slip renters at the three Ponty-Fenmore anchorages, requesting that the commission act upon the matter prior to October 31st, 1971, when Feldman’s rental agreement had to be renewed.
The county’s position was that such agreements were matters between the slip tenant and lessees or sublessee and that the county normally could not intervene.
The commission stated, however, that the matter would be investigated and discussed with the county counsel as soon as possible.
Unlike its reaction to the John and Willie Hjorth case, the Pioneer Skippers became involved in this dispute. Many members expressed concern that the future of all boat owners was at stake because eviction without cause was allowed in the proposed agreement.
Ponty-Fenmore expressed a willingness to talk, and issued a statement saying that no one would be evicted pending a revised rental agreement that would try to take objections of slip tenants into account.
The revised rental agreement, issued after conversations with a Pioneer Skippers representative, proved no more acceptable than the previous draft.
The lessee was willing to allow Feldman and all other live-aboards to occupy their slips if they would sign a new agreement and meet all rules and regulations of the moorage and the county.
Because of the absence of any guarantee of his status and his objections to other parts of the agreement, Feldman refused.
The Pioneer Skippers next presented the county with a proposed Marina-wide slip rental agreement. The lease and finance administrator of the department asked the Skippers to prepare an analysis of its objections to the Ponty-Fenmore agreement.
The Skippers countered at the February 1972 meeting of the commission with a request that the county undertake a study of all rental agreements in use at the Marina.
The county agreed to proceed with the review without taking a position on the merits of the controversy. The matter received increasing attention from the boaters’ organization during the spring without any progress toward settlement of the issue.
In late spring, Feldman was given until May 30th, 1972 to sign or be evicted. Having failed to act, Ponty-Fenmore notified him on May 31st that he was no longer a legal occupant of his slip.
At this point, a number of Marina del Rey boaters, including Feldman, filed charges with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that the recent slip rate increases, the new rental agreements, and lowered levels of service throughout the Marina constituted a violation of the national price controls that were then in effect.
This proved unsuccessful. Concurrently, the president of the Pioneer Skippers attempted to carry on negotiations with the Lessees Association concerning the adoption of a Marina-wide slip rental agreement. Little came of this as well.
The county, under the terms and conditions of the standard lease from between the county and the lessees, had no legal responsibility for slip agreements, but the director of the Department of Small Craft Harbors noted that this did not prevent the county from exercising a moral responsibility for equity in the conflicts between lessees and boaters over slip rental agreements.
The Feldman case provided an immediate test for the moral suasion of the county. Feldman and another boater, Stanley Levine, signed rental agreements in July 1972 but were still in the process of being evicted.
Feldman’s attorney requested that the Department of Small Craft Harbors director intervene on the boaters’ behalf because they were being evicted without specific cause.
The director wrote to Ponty-Fenmore asking that the matter be reconsidered but the latter declined to do so.
Feldman and Levine went to court in August 1972 to contest unlawful detainer proceedings. Their attorney entered a demurrer stating that because the Marina was a public facility owned by the county, a landlord must prove legal cause before eviction could take place.
The two boaters also tried to gain public support for their case and organized a “Sail-In” on August 20th, 1972 to present a petition signed by 1,111 boat owners and users of Marina del Rey.
The petition asked the county to “Öreconsider its decision not to intervene in unjustifiable evictions at Marina del Rey anchorages.”
Only 40 boats participated in the event, but a Pioneer Skipper spokesperson commented that many boat owners refused to join in the protest for fear of being evicted. At the time of the writing, Supervisor James Hayes’ office had not yet acted upon the petition.
[The Board of Supervisors at the time consisted of Hayes, Peter Schabarum, Warren Dorn, Ernest Debs and Kenneth Hahn] Hayes was appointed by the governor to replace Supervisor Burton W. Chace, who died in a car accident August 22nd, 1972 on his way to a Board of Supervisors meeting.
Legally, the boaters were unsuccessful with their case in the Culver City Municipal Court and with an appeal to the Appellate Department of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
In August 1973, the latter body affirmed the lower court’s findings that landlords do not have to allege the reason for evicting tenants under California law.
Note: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org/.