The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors held a public workshop in Marina del Rey Thursday, April 7 to discuss proposed beach and harbor use permitting revisions for activities including beach camps and physical fitness training camps at county beaches.

Santos Kreimann, director of Beaches and Harbors, said the proposed revisions are an update to the 1984 Beach and Harbor Use Permit Policy that resulted from a comprehensive review by the department.

Kreimann said the Use Permit Policy is largely outdated and its procedures need to be updated to reflect current practices and increases in permitted and non-permitted activities to ensure a fair and appropriate allocation of the limited space available and the effective management of limited resources.

The plan includes the addition of new permitting procedures designed specifically for the increase in organized recreational activities. The new policy procedures are anticipated to go into effect for the 2012 summer season.

The update recognizes longstanding department practices for issuing beach user permits that are now reflected in four categories: Co-sponsored; Community Service; Events (Basic and Basic Plus); and Recreational Camp and Physical Fitness Training, Kreimann said.

Permits are required for all events conducted on department-operated beaches and Marina del Rey property or in department facilities.

“Basic” events are those conducted by the permittee without payment to third parties for services or goods used in connection with the event, collection of participant fees, sponsorships, items for sale to attendees, and/or other types of revenue generated by the permittee.

“Basic Plus” events are those for which the permittee uses the service of a paid third party to assist in the production of the event or to provide goods or services used at the event (caterers or rentals), items are sold to the attendees and/or there is a participant fee or paid sponsorship(s), as well as other types of revenue generated by the permittee.

The actual amount of permit fees and charges will differ, based upon the anticipated gross receipts, the county services required, and the type of activity. An advance deposit for any county-provided services will be required as estimated by the department (lifeguard, maintenance, parking attendant and/or equipment). A cost for these additional services including the deposit will be forwarded to the permittee within 15 days after the event. If the deposit is in excess of the cost of the additional expenses, the permittee will be refunded the difference.

Because of the popularity and proliferation of recreational camps and physical fitness training programs at department-operated beaches and Marina del Rey property and facilities, as well as the demand for specific locations, this type of permit is designed to recognize limited resources and provide necessary safeguards to assure participants’ and others’ safety at department areas and facilities when recreational camps and physical fitness training activities are being conducted, county staff said.

These activities are the responsibility of the operator, which must adhere to department rules and regulations.

The recreational camps and physical fitness training activities are conducted by outside operators on department-operated beaches and Marina del Rey property and include various types of activities that have participant fees, such as surf camps or lessons, summer day camps, volleyball camps, boot camps, and physical training activities.

This new category was developed due to an increase in requests for recreational camp and physical fitness training use permits, county staff said. Only operators identified as the permittee may conduct the activities, with all personnel as employees of the operator.

Due to the heavy demand for the camps and physical fitness training, the department has developed a new procedure for selection of recreational camp and physical fitness training permittees. The minimum recreational camp requirements and rules and regulations have been prepared in conjunction with the lifeguard division of the fire department, said Kreimann.

According to the Beaches and Harbors policy statement, “the addition of the camps and physical fitness training permit to the Use Permit Policy applies to permitted organized recreational activity on department-operated beaches and the public areas in Marina del Rey. This new permit and the selection procedure have been developed to handle the competing demands for high profile or high use locations and provide interested parties an open and competitive bidding process for such locations, while also setting forth operational standards for all recreational camps and physical fitness training activities on department-controlled property to ensure participant safety.”

Some of the audience members said they had attended the Beach Commission meeting March 23rd to hear this permit policy presentation, and they had the impression that their input would be included in this process.

Kreimann said he was open and receptive to all comments and ideas in the selection and evaluation process, and that was the basis for the public meeting. He noted that a selection process is needed to choose operators of the camps and that a bid process was a good starting point.

Several camp operators said they are very passionate about operating their camps, noting it is much more than just a business venture to them.

Camps are both non-profit and for profit. Some non-profit operators said they are operating on a charitable basis and are concerned that the children who attend the camps would be left out if a bidding process for space was enacted because of financial constraints.

Kreimann said that for the camps where some of the children are subsidized, the camp operator would get credit for that. In other camps where the children participate through donations, the same process would be used, and the operator would have to show that it is a 100-percent non-profit organization.

Some speakers said that a bidding process would be more favorable to those with the bigger financial assets and leave the regular operators out of the process. The issue of camp operators who don’t have a permit but operate anyway without any legal ramifications is a major problem, they say.

Some speakers questioned why a competitive “bidding” process is considered a given.

Steve Napolitano, field deputy for county Supervisor Don Knabe, whose district includes Marina del Rey, pointed out that “use of the word ‘bid’ sounded like money was being thrown at it,” and was causing confusion. Kreimann responded that “proposal” might be more indicative of what the operators would submit to apply for their permits.

Other speakers voiced their concerns over some operators applying for and receiving permits for several spaces but using only one.

Some of the camp operators said they have been on the waiting list for several years and understand that is the process, but that if the rules are changed, new operators would be allowed to bid for spaces that others have been waiting for.

Kreimann said he had spoken with a number of camp operators who voiced their frustrations and anger over a number of issues that are critical to them.

Audience members told Kreimann that a merit-based system would be better than a financial component. Kreimann said the importance of a financial component in the evaluation is that prospective operators couldn’t be disqualified if they didn’t have the financial wherewithal to operate. For instance, if a check from the prospective operator bounced, the operator couldn’t be disqualified without a financial component in the evaluation process, he said.

In addition, Kreimann said this new policy would provide the code enforcement that has been previously lacking. Phone calls from individuals who are operating permitted spaces and observing those who are not permitted would also be encouraged, he said.

Questioned about the strength of the Beach Commission in a decision about the new policy and procedure, Kreimann said that the policy could be recrafted and sent to the commission for review or modification, and if they think it’s a bad idea, he would ask the commissioners to consider that policy as a public manager of public assets.

The commission could then recommend other ideas and explain them, or Kreimann said he could move the policy forward because the Beach Commission is an advisory commission to him. If there was no unanimous decision by the commission, Kreimann said his decision would then be made in a fair and equitable manner based on public interests and assets.

Some of the current camp operators claimed they have reported unauthorized camps repeatedly to the county but that nothing had been done about it. Kreimann said the county has identified all of the camp locations and that this proposed policy will be helpful in dealing with these types of situations, making it easier to administer and giving legitimate vendors the ability to operate.

Kreimann said he strongly encourages camp operators to produce as many references as possible because when only three or four references are given and county staff calls them for verification, one or two of those references may not call back. Without an appropriate number of references, that potential vendor would be removed from consideration.

He told the audience that the staff would not call to let them know enough references didn’t respond, but they would only call to ask a question or to clarify something on the application.

Kreimann said that from the comments, operators are asking for additional points for longevity and reputation.

Asked what would happen if the existing operator left and a new vendor came in on an incremental fee basis, Kreimann said he would negotiate that issue because there is a cap, and if a camp operator was removed there would be a competitive disadvantage with a new one taking his place.

One speaker said it was extreme to require an EMT (emergency medical technician) on board, referring to the requirements listed in the proposed policy. When the speaker asked if EMTs needed to train as lifeguards, Kriemann said that proposal would also be reviewed.

He told the camp operators that he will take their comments into consideration.

“We don’t have all the answers and we’ve observed you, and talked to operators and lifeguards to get feedback,” he said.

When some of the speakers suggested a peer council to assist in the process, Kreimann said that wouldn’t work because there inevitably is a conflict of interest, and that even the retired and active lifeguards wouldn’t want to take part because they know many of the parties involved.

One camp operator claimed that cities compete with the camp operators, and copy their business plans, undercutting the regular camp operators.

Kreimann said that cities provide a service to the community when they are providing camps for children, and that he is not willing to compromise on that issue. When one speaker claimed that the cities are taking away business, Kreimann responded, “You operate at full capacity, and most of the camps are operating at capacity. The cities take kids above that.”

The revised permit policy will return to the Beach Commission, which will make recommendations. Kreimann said he would evaluate those recommendations and confer with county counsel to make sure there are no legal issues. The policy procedure would then be sent to the county Board of Supervisors for review.

The Beach and Harbor Use Permitting Revisions are online at:

http://beaches.lacounty.gov.

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