WHILE THESE BOATS have their own docks, Marina del Rey still has a number of abandoned boats in its harbor, according to local authorities.

More than three years after legislation was enacted targeting abandoned vessels in channels and harbors throughout the state, local agencies responsible for the upkeep and safety of California harbors report derelict boats continue to be problematic.
A bill proposed by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Marina del Rey), then an assemblyman, to help boat owners and harbormasters remedy this problem was signed into law Oct. 7, 2009. The legislation, Assembly Bill 166, allowed state and county agencies to apply for grants from the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund to help subsidize the removal and disposal of vessels that are no longer seaworthy, have been abandoned or cause an obstruction on the public waterways.
The fund is a state endowment that provides money that covers average costs to remove, store and/or dispose of surrendered vessels and other navigational hazards.
“Although the bill will have a statewide impact, it was special to me to pass legislation like this because it will help boating interests in my district,” Lieu said after former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 166 in 2009. “It was very gratifying to see that a number of boating organizations support this bill.”
Deputy Bryan White of the marine operations unit at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Marina del Rey Station says his agency continues to encounter abandoned boats in the Marina.
“I think as long as there are boats in Marina del Rey we’re going to have abandoned vessels,” he said. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in abandoned vessels in our harbor.”
The California Sheriffs Associations supported Lieu’s bill in 2009. The harbormaster of the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Department at the time said derelict boats had become a big problem not only as navigational hazards but also regarding where to store them.
Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Deputy John Rochford, who has since retired, said the costs of warehousing or destroying abandoned boats can become expensive very quickly.
If a vessel is no longer seaworthy or is in poor condition, often the boat owner will not claim it, leaving the county with only two recourses — destroying the boat or auctioning it.
“Lien sales can take up to six weeks, because the owner has a right to claim their vessel within that time period,” Rochford explained.
Storage charges in Marina del Rey started at 90 cents a foot per day, three years ago and after the third day they increased by 45 cents.
“(Owning) a boat is an expensive endeavor,” White said.
Maintenance as well as dock fees and fuel costs also factor into the expense of owning a boat, and in recent years, with the rise in slip fees, many owners have found it difficult to keep their vessels.
The-then director of the state Department of Boating and Waterways, Raynor T. Tsuneyoshi, said at a community meeting three years ago at a Marina del Rey yacht club that in some parts of the state, the rate of abandoned boats has increased dramatically in recent years.
“In Northern California, we have agencies that tell us that they are dealing with an average of 30 abandoned boats a month,” Tsuneyoshi told the audience. “That’s an increase of about 35 percent this year.”
Some local boat owners have sought to tie the number of abandoned boats to the prices that the county’s lessees charge for dock rentals.
Michael Lenerman, who owns multi-hull boat dealer Multi Marine on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, attended the meeting in Marina del Rey in 2009. He touched on the increase in slip fees over the years and told the audience that many boat owners say they have been forced to abandon their boats due to financial difficulties, much of it because of expensive dock rates at Marina del Rey’s anchorages.
“When are we going to address the fact that middle-class boat owners are losing their boats because of higher slip fees?” Lenerman asked.
Carol Baker, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, agrees with White about derelict or discarded boats in marinas. “I think we’ll always see some of these vessels,” she said.
Fourth District county Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents Marina del Rey, said he supports any recommendations from the Sheriff’s Department regarding how discarded and derelict boats are cited, warehoused and sold or eventually destroyed.
“To have rotting boats out there is a hazard,” Knabe said. “I understand that there is still the problem of (abandoned boats) in the Marina.”
Baker thinks with the continued refurbishing of Marina del Rey, there could come a day when the number of these vessels shrinks considerably.
“We want to make the Marina as visually appealing as possible,” she said. “That’s our curb appeal: what vessels look like in our docks.”
White said those who wish to turn in a boat because the owner can no longer afford the upkeep or slip rental fees can turn the vessel into the Sheriff’s Department. “It’s nice to actually be able to say ‘yes’ when someone asks if we can help them with their vessels,” he said.
The department has approximately $4,000 remaining in its disposal fund.