A new lawsuit has been filed against the county, alleging that the county illegally regulates boating in Marina del Rey, illegally obtains funds from boaters in Marina del Rey by inspecting and giving citations and imposing fines, and knowingly causes vessels to be seized for violations under a county ordinance the county should not have adopted as it is worded.

A taxpayer class action lawsuit was filed Wednesday, September 29th, in Los Angeles Superior Court against the County of Los Angeles, alleging that the county violated the California Harbors and Navigation Codes by adopting a 1999 county ordinance that violates California state law.

The plaintiffs — represented by attorney Richard Fine — are the Coalition to Save the Marina, Inc. a California nonprofit corporation, Donald Klein, an individual, Steve Wyman, an individual, and Stuart Hoffman, an individual.

The lawsuit is based on an August 20th letter from David L. Johnson, acting deputy director of the State of California Department of Boating and Waterways to Stan Wisniewski, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors of Beaches and Harbors.

The letter states:

“Los Angeles County has exceeded its authority under Harbors and Navigation Code Section 660 by adopting this ordinance as it is currently worded.”

The letter states that the State Department of Boating and Waterways was not informed of an ordinance adopted by the county in 1999 regarding “unseaworthiness” of boats, nor did the state department “receive a copy for review prior to adoption and at least 30 days prior to the effective date.”

The Los Angeles County ordinance of 1999 defines unseaworthiness to apply to a vessel “either incapable of traveling on the waters of the State of California under its own sailing or mechanical propulsion system, or failing to comply with all applicable state and federal regulations pertaining to the class and size of vessel in question.”

The State Department of Boating and Waterways letter states that the Harbors and Navigation Code Section 660 allows local entities to regulate recreational vessels in only four areas:

– speed zones;

– time of day use;

– special use areas; and

– sanitation and pollution controls.

Even with regard to these four permissible areas, local entities may only regulate so long as the provisions of their ordinances do not conflict with state law, the state letter claims.

The letter to Wisniewski states that this provision of the Los Angeles County ordinance is in conflict with state law because the county harbor ordinance attempts to regulate matters that are not clearly confined to any of the four enumerated areas of the Harbors and Navigation Code.

Kerry Silverstrom, County Department of Beaches and Harbors chief deputy, said that her department is in communication with the Department of Boating and Waterways regarding the matter.

Plaintiffs allege that the county has not repealed the ordinance and that county officials continue to enforce the county ordinance.

The county must now repeal or amend the language in the ordinance to conform to the Harbors and Navigation Code, the State Boating and Waterways letter orders.

Plaintiffs say the causes of action of the lawsuit include declaratory relief-taxpayer, injunctive relief-taxpayer/class, fraud and deceit-class, damages for negligent misrepresentation-class, unfair competition-restitution and injunctive relief and petition for a writ of mandate.

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