At its July 13 meeting in Marina del Rey, the Los Angeles County Small Craft Harbor Commission addressed community concerns regarding the Fourth of July fireworks cancellation in the Marina and a high slip vacancy rate at specific parcels.

Among other issues addressed were the election of commission officers; approval of the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club lease; and the presentation of an award to the Marina del Rey Community Boating Council for outstanding outreach and inclusion on behalf of the U.S. SAILING Community Sailing Council.

During public comment, two speakers talked about the cancellation of the Fourth of July fireworks in the Marina due to county budget curtailments. Local boater Jon Nahhas said the cancellation of the popular event hurt local restaurants and other businesses.

Resident John Rizzo called the fireworks cancellation a “disgrace,” and said there are few events for the public in the Marina. He also criticized what he said was poor, inadequate signage for parking lots for the water taxi, beach shuttle and general public parking.

Rizzo also pointed out that there had been no commission meetings for two months and claimed that, “the county is losing money while the lessees are making a fortune,” citing empty buildings in the Marina.

Commissioner Dennis Alfieri told county staff that he “had a lot of people mention the fireworks cancellation, and they were very upset.” He asked county staff to try to avoid this from happening next year.

County Department of Beaches and Harbors Director Santos Kreimann said the county “would do everything in our power to have the fireworks next year.” He explained that the fireworks event is quite expensive, approximately $115,000 to $120,000 per year. Those costs include the services of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, some of which are not included in other communities, said Kreimann.

He also addressed recent concerns regarding beach restrooms, saying the issue was about public access, not cleanliness. Kreimann said a log is kept of complaints, and the majority of complaints were not about clean restrooms.

Kreimann told the commission that the Board of Supervisors has approved extra funding to hire 13 more people to work on the restrooms. Formerly, a federally funded program had assisted with hiring people, but that stopped in September 2010. Public access to restrooms earlier in the day is what is needed, he said.

Once the restrooms are cleaned at night and locked, an early morning skeleton crew will come to provide earlier access. He pointed out that all of the beaches had been visited by staff, and the most complaints were related to Venice restrooms, which are taken care of by the city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica beach restrooms, which are maintained by that city.

Nahhas also spoke about a high number of slip vacancies at certain parcels, and handed out copies of a report he put together to the commissioners. He said the information is from the Beaches and Harbors website, and urged the commission to look into the issue and do something.

The county’s slip vacancy rates are skewed, and reported based on slip size, not by vendor, he claimed. Commission chair Russ Lesser said, “questions do arise from this report,” and he asked county staff to look into it.

Nahhas said his report shows an overall vacancy percentage of 17.2 across all anchorages in Marina del Rey for June. He questioned why it was considerably higher than in other Los Angeles County harbors.

Kreimann said this trend is not isolated to the Marina, and that it’s happening up and down the coast because of the economy. The issue is a symptom of dated marinas, he said. He explained that Parcel 47, the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, which is county-managed, has the highest vacancy rate.

The county had to invest in maintenance of the deteriorating docks, but the amenities have not been upgraded and facilities have not been replaced, making it more difficult to attract boaters, Kreimann said. He added that the pricing is competitive with other marinas but that maintenance costs are high and lower rates would cause a money loss.

In other matters, commissioner David Lumian, who formed the Marina del Rey Community Boating Council 10 years ago, said the organization began to provide greater access to paddling and sailing sports, and for children from organizations such as the Venice Boys & Girls Club to participate. He presented awards to four representatives of the boating council.

Lesser said he wanted to postpone the election of commission officers until commissioner Alan Rifken was able to attend the meeting, adding that he wanted all of the commissioners present in case one of them wanted to serve as chair.

The commission additionally voted to approve an amendment to a lease for the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, to extend the term of the existing lease by three years and to revise the early termination provision. The lease term would be adjusted from five years to eight years, ending March 24, 2016, and it allows early lease termination upon mutual agreement of the parties.

During public comment, Rizzo said he and Nahhas had gone to the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting regarding the bicycle path plan and that residents in the Marina that live on city property don’t want a bike path to go past their homes.

He said that Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the committee chair, “voted no to public access along the Marina.” Rizzo alleged that, “Rosendahl had either been intimidated by the residents, or that he had received compensation, or both.”

Rosendahl told The Argonaut that the bike path issue stretches over 20 years, and that he accomplished a five-year bike plan. He has launched a new video campaign focusing on anti-bike rider harassment, and a draft Bicyclist Anti-Harassment ordinance — the first in the nation — that received a first reading before the City Council on Wednesday, July 20.

Rosendahl said there shouldn’t be another year of delays regarding the bike path in Marina del Rey, and that an ocean front bike path in that area is way too far in the future to spend time and money on improving a piece of land.

He said there is nothing wrong with bicyclists having to get off their bikes a little bit.

In response to Rizzo’s allegations, Rosendahl said he is not the kind of person to either be intimidated or paid off.

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