By Gary Walker

Boat Central, the controversial boat-stacking dry dock storage facility once planned for Dock 52 on Fiji Way, had all but disappeared from public conversation — until the project showed up in court.

MDR Boat Central L.P., the developer that local planning officials had picked for the project, is suing Los Angeles County for allegedly violating the terms of an agreement reached more than two years
ago by quietly killing the project when it was ready to break ground.

Attorney Benjamin Reznik says Boat Central had obtained necessary approvals from Regional Planning officials and the California Coastal Commission before the county abruptly terminated negotiations in mid-2017.

“They owe us money. My client spent over $4 million on entitlements and approvals,” Reznik said. “We had a lease for 60 years, so [our losses] could be in the tens of millions of dollars.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had approved the project before the 2016 election of Supervisor Janice Hahn to replace termed-out Don Knabe in the district that includes Marina del Rey, an unincorporated area managed directly by the county.

Reznik said his client met with Hahn’s staff about the storage facility in 2017.

“According to the information that we were given, Supervisor Hahn decided she did not like the project. The agreement was terminated and our client was left holding the bag,” he said.

Hahn could not be reached for comment, and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches & Harbors declined to comment as well.

Attorneys for the county have filed a motion to dismiss Boat Central’s lawsuit, with a Los Angeles Superior Court judge expected to make a ruling on that motion sometime in the early part of this year.

The 47,100-square-foot Boat Central project was controversial from its inception, drawing opposition from a number of local boat owners and the Marina del Rey Lessees Association. Critics took issue with Boat Central’s design and questioned its economic viability in comparison to rates for existing dry-dock storage facilities and in-water boat slips.

“I don’t know any sailors who are happy with the design,” Michael Leneman, owner of the Venice-based boat sales and design business Multi-Marine, told The Argonaut in 2016.

Boat Central would have stood 70 feet high, with a portion of the structure extending over the water, and utilized a five-ton ton jib crane and multiple launch/retrieval elevators to store boats in 345 berths on six levels, with 30
additional spaces for mast-up sailboat storage, 134 automobile parking spaces for boaters and a 1,560-square-foot public promenade along the waterfront.

Water access for Boat Central would have displaced Marina del Rey Sportfishing and other charter services that launch from slips at Dock 52.

That was a major concern for Milton “Skip” Rutzick, who owns and operates The Duchess Yacht Charter Service in Marina del Rey.

“That’s the No. 1 issue in the harbor. My biggest reservation was having that project take away valuable commercial dock space,” Rutzick said.