Three amended class action lawsuits against the county are alleging that the county deliberately undervalued county-owned property in the Marina.
The amended lawsuits also allege that the county has allowed Marina lessees to receive a higher than “fair return on investment” in their Marina parcels.
The alleged actions have denied county taxpayers revenue the county should have received with the county leases, Richard Fine, attorney for the plaintiffs, charged.
Fine filed the lawsuit amendments Monday, February 14th, in Los Angeles Superior Court after a Superior Court judge had ordered Fine to return with amended complaints to Fine’s original filing.
The class action lawsuits were filed against the county and Marina lessees, including Kingswood Village-Marina; Archstone-Smith Operating Trust; Neptune Marina, Legacy Partners Neptune Marina L.P.; Tuxedo Real Estate, L.P.; Lyon Villa Venetia LLC; Lyon Villa Venetia II, LLC; Wolf Villa Venetia 224, LLC; and Wolf Villa Venetia 224 II, LLC.
County Beaches and Harbors Department director Stan Wisniewski as an individual was also listed as a defendant.
“The county has shortchanged the taxpayers on these lessee contracts by approximately $250 million per year,” Fine alleged.
“This is either phenomenal incompetence on the part of the county, or someone is receiving some large campaign contributions,” Fine alleged.
Plaintiffs in the three lawsuits are the Coalition to Save the Marina and the Marina Tenants Association, Inc.
One case also has an individual plaintiff and the second case has two individual plaintiffs.
Fine claimed that the county’s refusal to control rents and prices in the Marina amounts to “a gift of public funds” — which Fine claims is a violation of the state constitution.
The county has long opposed price controls and rent price controls in the Marina.
Fine points to a June 6th, 1977, letter from county counsel that the county does not need to consider the amount of investment a lessee has made in the Marina parcel when price setting is considered.
While the county does consider that a Marina lessee is entitled to “a fair and reasonable return on investment,” Fine says that if investment is not considered in the determination of “fair and reasonable return,” the county is abrogating its responsibility to county taxpayers in the administration of the Marina.
Fine also questions the manner in which county officials consider comparable prices and rents in other communities as a means of determining whether Marina rents and prices are “fair and reasonable.”
Roger Moliere, Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors Asset Management Division chief, responded that Marina officials were unaware that the lawsuit amendments had been filed, and would have no comment.
Moliere said any county response would come from county counsel.