Los Angeles County continues to discuss charter regulations

Small Craft Harbor Commission’s deliberation of commercial passenger activity remains an arduous task.

MARINA DEL REY — Charter operations in Marina del Rey continues to be a difficult issue for local officials to pin down, as the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors provided a brief presentation of passenger boating services at the Small Craft Harbor Commission’s November meeting.

County officials have been contemplating how to regulate charter operations in Marina del Rey for some time now, both with respect to the permitting process and how to crack down on illegal passenger services aboard recreational boats.

The crux of county staff’s presentation at the Small Craft Harbor Commission’s Nov. 8 meeting focused on charter operation permitting.

There are two avenues to operating a charter service in Marina del Rey, according to Michael Rodriguez, Department of Beaches and Harbors’ chief property manager: applying for use of Dock 55 or obtaining a permit through leasehold.

Those seeking to establish a charter through private leasehold must have a commercial sublease with marina operator or lessee in place. Charter operators must also successfully endure through a related use hearing and obtain a permit from the Department of Regional Planning.

A member of the Small Craft Harbor Commission, who later brings the case before the entire board for a final decision, would conduct the related use hearing.

The process, however, isn’t as easy as county staff’s presentation might have made it appear, commissioners were quick to point out. There are other issues to factor into whether a charter operator would be permitted to conduct business in Marina del Rey, such as insurance requirements and parking considerations.

Rodriguez echoed a similar position, stating there are several hurdles a potential charter operator must jump over in seeking a permit.

“It’s not impossible to do chartering out of leaseholds, but there are a lot of steps you have to go through to legitimize it,” Rodriguez said.

A charter applicant would then in line to receive one of two possible permits from Regional Planning: ministerial ($1,001 fee) or discretionary ($9,143). The discretionary permit requires a separate hearing.

Ministerial permits apply to site plan reviews and special districts, while discretionary permits are for conditional uses.

“None of the master leases here in the marina specifically allow for chartering and none prohibit chartering. So [charters] fall into an area called related use. A related use must go through a hearing,” Rodriguez told commissioners.

Charter operations can also be conducted at Dock 55. Operators only need to fill out an application for Dock 55 use, thereby eliminating the need for a hearing and permitting process, Rodriguez told commissioners.

Access to parking at Dock 55 was one concern addressed during the public comment period.

Rodriguez said the county’s decision-making process would, in part, be determined by whether the charter operator proposed a viable parking plan.

Commissioners requested from county a staff to provide a list of potential Dock 55 users as part of its continued deliberations on the matter.

A review of the various marina redevelopments in Marina del Rey could also become a factor in how L.A. County shapes the regulation of charter operations at the large recreational boating harbor. The proximity of charter operations to recreational marinas and liveaboards is one of the top concerns among local boaters. County officials could look into managing recreational and commercial uses of the harbor, as to keep charter operations from comingling with boaters and liveaboards.

Charter operations must have a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain on board and be visually inspected. All charter vessels must have its inspection forms certified and documented and carry valid insurance. Operators must also possess a valid county business license and permits to serve food and alcohol.

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