A new lawsuit has been filed against the county and FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club, alleging the club withheld information regarding alleged violations on an application for a conditional use permit in Marina del Rey.
Much of the lawsuit concerns alleged discharge and dumping violations by a vessel FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club moored in the Marina.
The lawsuit also alleges that Los Angeles County Supervisors Don Knabe and Yvonne Burke voted to approve the conditional use permit August 16th, without disclosing personal conflicts of interest.
The plaintiffs — represented by attorney Richard Fine — are the Coalition to Save the Marina, Inc., a California nonprofit corporation, and Hans Etter, an individual.
The petition for a writ of mandate was filed Monday, November 14th, in Los Angeles Superior Court, against the county, seeking to require the county to obey the county code and to deny a conditional use permit for FantaSea Yachts landside activities previously approved by the County Board of Supervisors.
A writ of mandate is a court order to a government agency to follow the law by correcting its prior actions or ceasing illegal actions.
The lawsuit requests that the county disregard the affirmative votes of Burke and Knabe, or in the alternative, to hold another hearing and vote on the application by FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club.
FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club is a sublessee of the Marina City Club at 4215 Admiralty Way.
The lawsuit also alleges that March 2004 re-election committees for Burke and Knabe owed money to FantaSea Yachts for functions the re-election committees held at facilities operated by by FantaSea Yachts.
The suit claims that the Burke committee owed $10,500 to FantaSea Yachts and that $9,350 is still owed to FantaSea Yachts by the Knabe committee.
Burke was seeking and did win reelection in the Second Supervisorial District and Knabe was seeking and did win reelection in the Fourth Supervisorial District during the time the expenditures occurred, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also alleges that:
“Burke and Knabe knew they had a financial interest in the continuance of the conditional use permit, and that their decision(s) had a material effect on (the income of FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club) and the granting of the conditional use permit was a reward to FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club for assisting them in the re-election campaign.”
The amount of funds paid to and owed to FantaSea Yachts by the Burke and Knabe reelection committees are included in Burke’s and Knabe’s Recipient Campaign Statements for the March, 2nd, 2004 election, the lawsuit says.
After filing the lawsuit, Fine alleged that late information showed that “Supervisor Gloria Molina — who represents the First (Supervisorial) District, paid FantaSea Yachts approximately $3,000 for fundraising in her 2001 campaign, which also raises a conflict of interest question on her vote to approve the FantaSea Yacht conditional use permit.”
Fine alleges that “at all times, the supervisors for the County of Los Angeles were aware that FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club had applied for a continuance of the conditional use permit for a 25-year time period, as the application occurred in 2004, and Burke and Knabe knew that each of their campaign committees had employed FantaSea Yachts to provide their primary fundraising event.”
David Sommers, Knabe press secretary, replied:
“We’ve heard about the lawsuit but have not been notified by county counsel as to the substance of the lawsuit, and therefore can’t comment until that time.”
“We paid fair market value for any use in the past of FantaSea Yachts services,” said Sommers.
Daniel Ginzburg, owner of FantaSea Yachts and Yacht Club, replied:
“This lawsuit is completely (in) bad faith and as inaccurate as you can find.
“These questions of violations were raised at the (County) Regional Planning Commission, which ruled unanimously in our favor and at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting, (where supervisors) also ruled in our favor (with the exception of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was absent).”
Supervisor Molina spokeswoman Roxanne Marquez said the Board of Supervisors based its vote on the recommendation of the Regional Planning Commission in March.
Marquez said Burke “based her vote in large part on this recommendation from the commission and the commission felt that whatever violations FantaSea experienced on those water-based operations weren’t relevant to the banquet facility because (the water operations are) governed by another permit.”
Elaine Lemke, Los Angeles County counsel principal deputy said this lawsuit is not relevant to the conditional use permit that was recently approved and that the complaints were addressed at various public hearings in the past.
Lemke said the lawsuit refers to the waterside component of FantaSeas Yachts, which is governed by a different conditional use permit.
“There are zero incidents and the modus operandi of this group filing the lawsuit is to file a suit and then claim there is credibility to the lawsuit because it is being looked at,” Ginzburg alleged.
Information provided by FantaSea Yachts in the application states that the existing landside banquet facility with the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages has operated since 1995 without a violation, and that the applicant has operated the banquet facility in a responsible fashion, said Fine.
Fine said that while the landside banquet facility has been operated without violations, allegations in the lawsuit also address alleged questionable dumping activities by the waterside component of the yacht rental firm.
Kerry Silverstrom, County Beaches and Harbors Department deputy director, replied:
“We have not seen the lawsuit but have been advised by county counsel Tom Faughnan that the suit was filed.”
“If these are the same kind of allegations that were made in previous lawsuits that were thrown out, we expect this lawsuit to be thrown out also,” Silverstrom said.