By Helga Gendell
Part XX of the Marina history series concludes the coverage of the fight for Marina del Rey cityhood by local residents and boaters at the time.
The drive for cityhood began in October 1984 and was first sourced by the series in Part XV and continued in Parts XVII, XVIII and XIX.
In a Dec. 26, 1985 Los Angeles Times article titled “Marina Tenants File Bid to Place Cityhood on Ballot,” reporter James Rainey wrote, “Tenants who hope to form a city in Marina del Rey have filed petitions asking the county to put the incorporation question on the ballot.
“Leaders of Marina del Rey Cityhood Inc. presented more than 1,700 signatures to Ruth Benell, director of the Los Angeles County local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).
“Marina del Rey activists said more than a year ago that they hoped to form their own city so they could impose a rent control law to replace the county ordinance that expired this year. Reducing crime and limiting high-rise development are also factors in the incorporation drive, organizers say.
The Times article continued, “The proposal has drawn opposition from powerful political and business interests, including the county Board of Supervisors and Marina landlords. The conservative majority of the Board of Supervisors supported a bill in the state Legislature that would have stopped the cityhood effort. An amended law eventually passed, allowing cityhood proponents to proceed without restrictions as long as they filed petitions before Feb. 15, 1986.
“Monday’s filing means that the required 1,400 signatures — equal to one-fourth of the registered voters in the Marina — should be verified by the county registrar’s office before the deadline.
“Three months after verification, the county commission will conduct a public hearing and then vote on the cityhood proposal. If the commission approves the plan, the Board of Supervisors must place incorporation on the ballot,” stated the Times article.
“Benell estimated that next November would be the earliest the question could be put to a vote in the Marina.
“But securing approval from LAFCO will be difficult. Two members of the seven-member commission, Supervisors Pete Schabarum and Mike Antonovich, already have said they oppose incorporation. Approval requires a simple majority. And Benell in March issued a preliminary report that said a city of Marina del Rey would lose nearly $2 million in its first year of operation.
“Cityhood proponents hope to disqualify Schabarum and Antonovich from the LAFCO vote. They said a conflict-of-interest law prohibits commission members from voting on an issue if they have received political contributions of $250 or more from people who are affected by their decisions,” according to the Times article.
“Both Schabarum and Antonovich have received such contributions from Marina landlords and should be barred from the incorporation vote, cityhood opponents said. But the county counsel said the state law does not apply to LAFCO and that the supervisors will be allowed to vote.
“Benell’s preliminary report showed that the city would bring in $3.5 million but spend $5.4 million in its first year. Benell said nothing has changed to turn the study in favor of cityhood.
“‘I think the preliminary report was based on sound figures,’ she said. ‘I don’t anticipate finding $2 million more in revenue to offset the expenses the city will have.’”
The Times article continues, “Hy Tucker, the president of the cityhood group, said the organization plans to present a study of its own that will show that a city of Marina del Rey would collect enough money to pay for services. The study, which will cost about $25,000, will be completed by Christenson & Wallace, an Oceanside firm that has written similar reports for Isla Vista and Mammoth Lakes.
“Cityhood supporter Stuart Simon said the county report greatly underestimated money the city would make on parking and traffic citations and bed taxes from two luxury hotels under construction.
“Simon said the report also overstated costs, especially the $3.6 million price tag for police enforcement on land and in the small craft harbor.
“Cityhood backers said the boundaries of Marina del Rey should include the 800-acre Marina with its 5,800 apartments and 6,000 boat slips, and 900 acres to the south where the Summa Corp. plans to build a huge, $1 billion planned community called Playa Vista,” stated the Times article.
“The county, however, has already given preliminary approval to the city of Los Angeles to annex the southern portion. The open fields are owned almost entirely by Summa, and the firm’s officials say they want their development to be part of the city of Los Angeles.
“The powerful opponents claim that cityhood is merely a device to extend rent control, which expired in Marina del Rey and other unincorporated parts of the county this year.
The Times article continued, “Tucker admitted that rent control is important to Marina residents, many of whom were hit with large rent increases after controls expired. But he said increases in crime and high-rise development also concern them.”
[Los Angeles Times reporter Judy Pasternak wrote two articles about LAFCO’s decision on Marina cityhood. The first article, dated March 13, 1986 was titled, “LAFCO Report Urges Denial of Marina Vote on Cityhood.” The second article, dated March 27, 1986 was titled “LAFCO Blocks Vote; Marina Bid on Cityhood Rejected.”]
The following information is from two abstracts of Pasternak’s articles:
On March 13, 1986, Times reporter Pasternak wrote, “Ruth Benell also wrote that the cityhood campaign is based solely on the hope that rent control would be imposed after incorporation. She wrote that ‘rent control in and of itself is not sufficient justification for the incorporation of a city.’”
“On March 26, commissioners will conduct a public hearing on cityhood supporters’ application to incorporate. If commissioners approve the application, the Board of Supervisors must set an election. If commissioners deny it, as recommended, cityhood backers will have no recourse but the courts.
The Times article continues, “Benell’s conclusions did not surprise cityhood backers, who forced the study by submitting 468 voters’ signatures last month.”
[Submitted signatures actually numbered 1,700, but the required minimum amount was 1,400. After required certification of the voters’ signatures by the county registrar, the number may have officially dropped to 1,468.]
In Times reporter Pasternak’s March 27, 1986 article she wrote, “Cityhood backers said the commission action will not end their campaign to incorporate the Marina. ‘The issues are still there and we will continue forward in our quest,’ said Simon, a director of Marina del Rey Cityhood Inc.
“Future efforts to form a city of Marina del Rey would face even more obstacles than this one has. The incorporation group gathered its signatures just before new rules took effect governing cityhood in areas where more than 50 percent of the land is publicly owned. The legislation that Gov. (George) Deukmejian signed last October, allows the county Board of Supervisors to derail a cityhood attempt in such cases merely by objecting to the state commission.”
The Times article continued, “Hy Tucker, president of the cityhood group, said he had expected the commission’s denial, despite his plea for a postponement. Tucker and consultant Fred Christianson told the commission they had not been able to get enough information to complete an analysis of the finances of a city of Marina del Rey.”