The County Small Craft Harbor Commission last week heard a lengthy response from Marina director Stan Wisniewski to allegations made a month earlier by Kingswood Village Apartments residents against Archstone-Smith Operating Trust and the management of the Kingswood leasehold.
In June, Kingswood residents complained to the commission about alleged sharply increased rents, alleged renovation work done without proper permits and alleged code violations regarding elevators and fire systems on the parcel.
Wednesday, July 14th, Small Craft Harbor Department director Stan Wisniewski gave the commissioners a lengthy report in response to the allegations:
n On rent increases:
“In neither case did representatives of the former or current lessee indicate or represent that a stated percentage or dollar figure for proposed rent increases would be put into place,” Wisniewski said.
n On the schedule of renovations:
Wisniewski said an Archstone representative appeared at the February commission meeting, stating that renovations were extensive and would take place over a three-year period.
Wisniewski told the commission that such renovations are being conducted in conformity with what is required.
Archstone has published a more detailed proposed schedule of renovation and has circulated the schedule to current tenants, Wisniewski told the commissioners.
n Regarding allegations that elevators at Kingswood were not working:
“All elevators are currently in service, as confirmed by a number of site visits by staff over a period of several days,” Wisniewski told the commission.
“Staff used several different elevators each day and did not encounter any long waits nor discern any safety issues.
“Permits for all elevators were posted.
“In addition, building management indicates no reports of elevator malfunction or stoppage, but that one elevator was intermittently designed for freight use during various periods for building work.”
n On the issue of workmen knocking on tenants’ doors at 6:30 a.m.:
The Marina director replied, “Management indicates that no renovation work is being done except on vacant apartments and that such work does not commence prior to 8 a.m.
“Any tenanted apartments at which maintenance work is requested or required does not begin until maintenance staff is available, also after 8 a.m.,” Wisniewski said.
n On the issue of fire alarms not working:
Wisniewski reported that “Archstone representatives advised that they conducted safety and other tests on the property when they became the new lessee and determined that fire alarm systems in two garden apartment buildings were not functioning properly.
“Accordingly, they have begun repair to the systems and, in the interim, have hired 24-hour per-day security guards to patrol and watch the buildings as a safety measure.”
n Regarding the issue of pool heating:
Wisniewski said that “Archstone has indicated that while the pool will undergo renovations, such work is now and has always been planned to coincide with winter months when pool use is minimal.”
n On the issue of tenants being “evicted” so that renovation can begin and the issue of large rent increases for current tenants in unrenovated apartments:
Wisniewski reported that:
“We have talked to numerous tenants and have confirmed that all are referring to prospective rent for the same or a similar fully renovated apartment, after completion of all work on the unit.
“We have been presented with no evidence of tenant evictions during the stated terms of their leases in order to make way for renovation,” he added.
“All notices to vacate have related either to tenants whose lease terms have ended and/or who are tenants on a month-to-month basis and who have been given 60-day notices so that work can begin.”
Wisniewski said that after a lease in one of the low-rise garden apartments expires, Archstone has agreed to allow tenants to move into a comparable unit elsewhere in the complex that has not been renovated if the tenant signs a new lease at the tenant’s current rent.
The tenant then has the right of first refusal to move back to his former unit after renovation at the new market rate for the unit and will be given a $1,000 credit against the new rent.
If the tenant chooses not to return to the renovated unit, he may remain in the renovated unit until such time as that unit is scheduled for renovation and make a decision at that time how he will proceed.
Wisniewski said Archstone officials say it takes about 45 days each for renovation of the high-rise units and such renovation will be done in phases of 13 to 26 units each.
Tenants in high-rise units whose leases have expired and are scheduled for renovation will be given several options related to interim moves and a $1,000 credit if the tenant agrees to move back into his original unit at the new rental rate, Wisniewski told the commission.
n Regarding tenant allegations about rents being higher than “controlled prices” in the lease:
Wisniewski reminded the commission that the county does not have pre-approved rent control policies in the Marina but the county master lease does make reference to requirement that prices in the Marina be “fair and reasonable.”
There is also policy reference in the master lease to the lessee being entitled to “a fair and reasonable return upon its investment under the lease.”
n On comparing Kingswood rents to “comparable” rents elsewhere in the marketplace:
Kingswood tenants had criticized the projects that were used in reporting “comparable” rents at other “like” projects.
Wisniewski replied that proposed rents at Kingswood low-rise garden apartments “are within the range of similar apartments in the geographic area” his department uses to seek “comparable” rates.
The range for such generally similar garden apartments outside the Marina is $1.73 to $2.63 per square foot for a one-bedroom unit and $1.49 to $3.65 per square foot for two-bedroom units, Wisniewski said.
The range of prices for similar apartments inside the unincorporated Marina del Rey is $1.60 to $2.85 per square foot for one-bedroom units and $1.35 to $2.56 per square foot for two-bedroom units. Wisniewski emphasized that these rents are for Marina apartments that are older than Kingswood garden units “but that all but two of comparable apartment complexes in the Marina have not yet been renovated.”
Archstone is proposing a range of $1.83 to $1.95 per square foot for one-bedroom units and $1.60 to $1.63 per square foot for two-bedroom units, Wisniewski said.
“Archstone’s proposed range of prices for fully renovated apartments is within the range for similar apartments outside the Marina as well as for similar largely unrenovated garden apartments of similar age within the Marina,” the Marina director said of the garden units.
But there are no directly comparable high-rise units in the Marina with which to compare rents in the high-rise Kingswood tower, Wisniewski told the commission.
“The range for generally similar high-rise apartments of comparable age and location and condition outside the Marina but along the waterfront in the geographical area (used by the department) is $2.04 to $4.06 per square foot for one-bedroom units and $1.84 to $4.46 per square foot for two-bedroom units,” Wisniewski said.
“Archstone is proposing a range of $2.01 to $3.10 per square foot for one-bedroom units and $1.94 to $2.62 per square foot for two-bedroom units.
“Thus, the results of our investigation and analysis indicate that the proposed rents for the renovated Kingswood high-rise units are within the range of comparables,” he said.
PROFESSIONAL BUILDING — In other business, the commission approved an amendment to the parcel containing the Marina Professional Building on Admiralty Way to adjust rental and insurance rates, and a provision for installing telecommunication and fiber optic cable apparatus.
An industry standard high was negotiated for the telecommunication and fiber optic cable apparatus agreement, with the county getting 50 percent of the revenue for the new contract, said Roger Moliere, Beaches and Harbors Department deputy director.
The commission also supported asking the California Department of Parks and Recreation for funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Bali Gateway Park and Fiji Gateway Park. The grant requests require Board of Supervisors approval.