The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an increase of slip rental rates at county-owned and -operated Anchorage 47 in Marina del Rey that will pay for rehabilitation and repair of the docks at the facility. Supervisors approved the rates July 1st and the initial increases are effective August 1st.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe submitted a motion for the raise in slip rentals as a way to offset the repair costs of the anchorage’s facilities, which have been in a state of disrepair for some time.

The county took control of the anchorage in March when the former lessee, Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, chose to let its lease expire.

“What we’ve done is create an interest-bearing account, so as the rate increases go into effect, that money will go to pay for the replacement of the docks,” said David Sommers, Knabe’s press deputy.

Rental income received from the increase in slip fees is to be used solely for the annual operation, repair, maintenance and replacement if the docks and premises at Anchorage 47.

“This is consistent with the county’s practice requiring private lessees to deposit funds into a reserve and/or restoration fund to address the deteriorating condition on their landside and waterside improvements,” stated the motion that Knabe sponsored at the board meeting to fund the replacement of the docks.

The acting director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors, Santos Kreimann, said that the county is phasing in the increase in such a way that it would attempt to mitigate the impact that slip tenants might feel when their rates are raised.

“I think that the increase is warranted because of the poor condition of the docks,” said Kreimann.

Since resuming ownership of the docks, over $200,000 has been spent on rehabilitating the facilities, say county authorities.

“It is a priority for Supervisor Knabe and the county to get these docks back in good condition,” said Sommers.

The anchorage has 196 slips and end ties, with adjunct restrooms and shower facilities for boaters.

The docks will be the only portion of the anchorage that will be replaced right now, said Kreimann.

The idea to repair the facilities through a slip rental hike came as a recommendation by the Small Craft Harbor Commission in May.

“I think that [the rental increase] is very fair,” said Russell Lesser, chair of the Small Craft Harbor Commission. “Eventually, most of the Marina is going to have to be redone.”

An inspection of the premises led to the decision that the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club piers needed to be replaced.

“We received an engineering report that stated that 38 percent of the docks were in poor condition and 43 percent were in fair condition,” Kreimann explained. “So with that in mind, we thought that it was time that we begin to address the conditions of the docks.”

The inspection report listed a number of areas of deterioration, including concrete, failed connections and other deficiencies.

Sommers said that it could cost approximately $2.5 million to replace the docks, but Kreimann said that other factors could cause the final tally to double.

“With hard and soft construction costs, it could be closer to $5 million,” said the Department of Beaches and Harbors acting director.

Boat slip rental increases are a hot-button topic in Marina del Rey, but over the last 18 months it has reached a fever pitch among many small boat owners. After receiving raises to their rents varying from 30 percent to over 50 percent at certain Marina anchorages, such as Mariners Bay, some small boat owners have complained that they are being priced out of hte Marina.

Jon Nahhas, a Marina del Rey boatowner who says his slip rate has gone up substantially within the last year and a half, took issue with the fact that the dock work will be paid for through raises to slip rental fees.

“Mr. Knabe and Mr. Kreimann told the [Board of Supervisors] that the docks needed to be repaired and that ‘market rates’ needed to be applied quickly for the funding of the redevelopment,” Nahhas noted.

“This is the ultimate paradox — [the Department of Beaches and Harbors, which] has neglected inspections on anchorages, now assumes control over dilapidated docks gone too long and wants to charge the boaters for the deferred maintenance.”

Andy Bessette recalled that the docks at the yacht club were not always in such poor condition.

“I believe these were some of the better-maintained docks in Marina del Rey because of (harbormaster) Tony Nash and the yacht club,” said Bessette, the president of the Marina Boaters Association.

Sommers reiterated that repairing the yacht club’s docks was a top priority.

“We’ve been told that the condition of the docks could deteriorate further in two to five years,” he said. “So it is definitely something that [Supervisor Knabe] would like to see taken care of sooner [rather] than later.”

Bessette touched on the drastic increase that many boating tenants have seen recently, and he feels that raising the rents has little too do with replacing or repairing the yacht club docks.

“Considering the economy and current property values, the recent radical increases in slip fees have only to do with greed,” he alleged. “The county and property management/developers, working in concert, periodically implement huge and unsustainable slip fee increases. This has the relentless effect of squeezing out the lower-income group of boaters.”

Department of Beaches and Harbors representatives feel that by implementing the increases over three years, tenants would not be subjected to the sharp increases that they have seen in recent years.

Bessette’s claim has been a rallying cry for many small boaters in Marina del Rey, who feel that county officials and the lessees of Marina parcels have been attempting to force them out of the Marina by raising their rates and catering to those who own larger boats. They also complain that developers are building new slips that house almost exclusively the larger, sleeker vessels, and fewer small slips.

Authorities counter that the majority of slip vacancies are for vessels that are 35 feet and shorter, and along with boat brokers, they argue that market trends point to the fact that the vast majority of new boat sales are typically for those over 40 feet.

Not all boat owners are unhappy with the current boating situation in Marina del Rey. Christine Rohde, who docks her 48-foot boat in the Marina, has seen some anchorages that are not in top condition, but she says she is quite happy at Villa del Mar.

“It is one of the best in all of the Marina,” said Rohde, a longtime resident.