Operators of Los Angeles County beach camps, surf schools and coastal fitness groups are concerned that proposed changes to the process for determining who gets to use limited seaside space and public areas in Marina del Rey are too focused on how much money the applicant offers the county.
They say this gives the advantage to large companies and municipalities—an alleged trend that could possibly trickle to other coastal communities near Hermosa Beach.
The argument was raised at a Thursday morning workshop on the proposed changes at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey.
The Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors has had a policy since 1984 of renewing permits for use of the beach and public areas of Marina del Rey to program operators as long as they remained in good standing.
Those wanting to break into the system went on a waiting list, and it could take years for them to get a permit.
“I have specific issues that I’m dealing with right now where people on the outside are trying to get in,” said Beaches and Harbors Director Santos Kreimann, who hosted the workshop. “There is a tremendous amount of pressure on … my department to at least make sure they have the ability to participate in the process.”
Those on the outside trying to get in did not attend the workshop, or if they did, they kept quiet at a session where many of the attendees were vocal. Those who spoke were operators fearing the new system could shut them out or force them to raise rates.
The proposed policy would award permits for three years. Plus a possible two-year extension before the operator would need to go through the process again.
Applicants would be measured on a 100-point scale. A maximum of 60 points would be given for experience, operational plan and performance history with the county. Up to 40 points would be given based on how much money the operator offers to pay the county to use the site.
“People like my wife and I, a mom and pop operation, we shouldn’t be pushed aside because some big power company comes in and can offer more money,” said Kirk Lantz, who operates Alive Surfing School at Torrance Beach with his wife Tara.
Sina Monjazeb, head of Sandy Day Kids Camp in Santa Monica, said at the meeting, “It makes us feel that you guys are so focused on the money that what’s ultimately going to happen in the end is we will get our permits, but at a significantly higher rate. This translates into us charging the community for that difference, which ultimately denies access to those who can’t afford it.”
A concern was also raised that the new system would increase the amount of unpermitted operations along the county’s coast.
Kreimann disagreed this would happen, he said, but the county is revising the laws so it can step up the effort to shut down these illegal operations.
The proposed permit policy was introduced last month at a meeting of the 20-member Beach Commission. It will return to the commission April 27 with revisions based on comments from last month's commission meeting and Thursday’s workshop.
At that time, the commission could make a recommendation for the county Board of Supervisors or ask staff to do more work on modifying the proposal. The Board of Supervisors could take up the matter as early as June.
The April 27 Beach Commission meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the Burton Chace Park Community Room. The agenda should be available here by April 22.