The Los Angeles County Small Craft Harbor Commission heard from a boaters group about opposition to the proposed elimination of the California Department of Boating and Waterways and received an update on a storage facility lease renegotiation at its May 9 meeting in Marina del Rey.

Anne Sacks, a former president of the Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC), presented information to the commission regarding the group’s opposition to the proposed removal of the Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW), also known as Cal Boating, due to budget constraints, and the effort to transfer the boating agency’s functions into the state Department of Parks and Recreation.

The RBOC is a nonprofit boater advocacy organization “of boaters, for boaters.” It relies solely on donations to be “the voice and advocate as legislators and regulators propose more fees, additional restrictions and new prohibitions on you as a boater,” according to the organization.

Sacks said the RBOC keeps apprised of the activities of government, identifies and analyzes proposed legislation and regulation, develops positions to further boater interests, and develops and implements strategies to achieve successful outcomes.

She told the harbor commission that if either the California State Senate or the Assembly don’t approve the proposed bill to eliminate DBW, it would fail to be passed. If both entities approve, it would be a much more daunting task to retain the DBW funds and services for boaters as they are now, she said.

The RBOC lobbies at the state, regional and national levels, and has a seat on the BoatU.S. National Advisory Council to provide input on special issues at the federal level.

The January proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to eliminate DBW or consolidate more than a dozen state departments, commissions and boards is part of his cost-cutting measures for the budget.

Boating and Waterways has a $69 million budget and approximately 80 employees. The RBOC maintains that it’s necessary to “follow the money” in this proposed elimination.

The state parks agency has tremendous funding struggles, and Cal Boating is a $69 million “money tree” that can help cure those woes, said Sacks.

The RBOC, a number of local governments, and the county Board of Supervisors oppose the DBW elimination because it is funded exclusively by boater-paid fuel taxes, boater registration fees and other sources, and doesn’t rely on the state general fund for support.

The agency provides boater education, supports the environmental protection of state waterways, and focuses on assuring safe waterways by providing sufficient boating law enforcement through local agencies and throughout the state, including Los Angeles County, to support efforts that advance its objectives.

Loans and grants are approved by DBW’s Board of Commissioners. These seven commissioners are appointed by the governor, according to county documentation.

Earlier this month, the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state government oversight agency, voted to support Brown’s state government reorganization plan, including the elimination of DBW. A prior attempt by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to remove the boating department failed.

In an April 25 letter to Brown and to the Little Hoover Commission, the Board of Supervisors unanimously stated its opposition to the elimination of DBW because it would “affect recreational boating resources, coastal beaches, boating safety education and public access.”

The supervisors’ letter stated that the DBW doesn’t depend on appropriations from the state’s general fund because it is funded by boaters’ fuel taxes, registration fees, federal funds used for boating and safety education programs, and to finance construction of local vessel pump-out stations.

The state Department of Parks and Recreation has its own priorities separate from DBW, said the supervisors, and “the proposed transfer of the functions, authorities, and responsibilities of DBW to that agency may jeopardize important beach restoration functions, data collection and research activities, boating safety programs and boating infrastructure investments.

“The consolidation would have significant fiscal implications if DBW resources are diverted to other agencies where they could be used for non-boating purposes and other unrelated activities,” the supervisors continued.

The supervisors’ letter outlined the collaborative partnership of DBW with Los Angeles County, and how it has provided the financing to “help make critical boating infrastructure projects and boating safety programs feasible. The county Department of Beaches and Harbors has received over $24 million in grants and loans for both coastal and boating infrastructure needs.”

“The Marina Sheriff’s Department secured $115,000 in funds to enforce all boating regulations in Marina del Rey Harbor, and Santa Monica Bay waters, as well as purchasing boat and scuba diving equipment to carry out boating safety and enforcement responsibilities,” according to the supervisors’ letter.

“The Marina del Rey Fire Department Lifeguard Division receives nearly $2 million annually for its rescue boat operations, safety training, and boat engine replacements and equipment.

“Lastly, the Department of Parks and Recreation has received more than $2 million in grant funds for boating improvements. Should the proposal to eliminate DBW limit the availability of funding for boating and coastal issues, future county projects such as these and other important statewide boating infrastructure and beach studies could be severely hampered,” the supervisors noted.Information, www.rboc.org.

In other commission business, Gary Jones, deputy director of the Asset Management and Planning Bureau for Beaches and Harbors, said attorneys for the county and the lessee of Parcel 104 – the Del Rey Shores storage facility – have met, and complete details would be presented at the commission’s June meeting once a proposed amendment and letter from the Board of Supervisors had been obtained.

At the April Small Craft Harbor Commission meeting, local residents Jon Nahhas and John Rizzo presented information they had compiled about the rent analysis of the storage facility purchase, profit and costs. They claimed that the lessee had been unduly enriched by public money and the county was not receiving the full amount due.

Jones responded to that allegation in writing to Nahhas. Jones said that in his document, Nahhas had estimated the market value of Parcel 104 to be in the region of between $7.8 million and $15.6 million. From this valuation range and the rent paid to the county, Nahhas had derived an estimate of the county’s return on the land to be between 0.23 percent and 0.45 percent, said Jones.

County staff has reviewed Nahhas’ analysis and identified “important assumptions missing from your valuation that lead to your gross inflation of the potential value of the parcel and thereby a drastic underestimation of the county’s rate of return,” said Jones.

The Nahhas estimate of land value doesn’t account for the allowable uses for the parcel and its encumbrance with a ground lease, said Jones, adding that both factors greatly affect the market value of the land.

“While our review does not constitute a formal appraisal of the site, a cursory examination of other self-storage sites currently available for sale in Southern California indicates an average asking price of approximately $9.50 per square foot,” said Jones.

“This is far below the $400 to $800 per square foot your valuation suggests,” Jones told Nahhas. “The $9.50 per square foot average is for fee simple land not encumbered with a ground lease.

“A site subject to a ground lease would likely sell for less than this average, as unlike a fee simple site, any buyer’s income potential from use of the property will be restricted to the ground rent due for the remaining period of the existing lease.

“As I have previously indicated to the Small Craft Harbor Commission, we have been unable to locate another storage site with a ground lease when searching for comparables for use in the decennial rent adjustment for Parcel 104,” Jones stated.

Jones said he shares the desire for the county to achieve the highest return possible for the use of its leased land in Marina del Rey, but that a true estimation of market value must account for a parcel’s allowable land use and ground lease conditions.

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