Liveaboards in King Harbor Marina could face eviction as the Harbor Commission looks to clean up the harbor.
REDONDO BEACH— A new policy has been announced for liveaboard boaters in King Harbor; liveaboards are looking at an extra $125 per slip per month for pumping fees; the fee went into effect on Feb. 1.
Liveaboards in the marina have been battling possible eviction notices since Nov. 2021. Majestic KHM, the current lessee, contacted their liveaboards through a phone call, according to board member Stephen Proud in a recorded meeting from the Harbor Commissioners.
Dr. Allen Ginsburg, father of the former Redondo Beach Councilmember, Jeff Ginsburg, is the new leaseholder for the marina. He took over in 2020 for the Guthrie family, who held the lease for 51 years prior.
A letter from Dec. 21, 2021, said that Majestic KHM, owned by Ginsberg, intends to “eventually make King Harbor a non-liveaboard, recreation-only marina.”
Mike Witzansky, the City Manager for Redondo Beach, suggested the decision is part of an effort to clean-up the marina, a choice that is generally positive. The new direction is potentially brought on by the marina’s pending five-year renewal of a California Clean Marina Designation and the concern of leaking sewage from liveaboards. However, Mike Aker, the General Manager of the marina, wants to handle clean-up efforts without making any drastic changes for the current liveaboards.
“After meeting with the City of RB [Redondo Beach], the letters were put on hold, and we were asked to deal with our concerns regarding our liveaboards first and to take our time in determining the future of liveaboards in our Marina,” said Aker in an email from Jan. 27.
The Harbor Commission agreed to put the issue on their next meeting’s agenda on Feb. 14, after hearing about eviction calls to liveaboard. The Harbor Commission does hold some jurisdiction of the marina, but actual ownership of the property and lease approvals falls to the city of Redondo Beach.
“You should know that we have never used the term “evictions” during this whole process since our contracts with boaters are under Maritime law and do not create residential tenancies,” said Aker. “The new owners here would like to see their Marina used for how it was originally built, which was for recreational boating and not used as a home on the water. Until this is made possible, we have asked all of our attends to keep their boats clear of clutter, in good running condition, our dock fingers free of all items other than dock steps for safety reasons, and we have implemented a mandatory fee on liveaboards that includes a pump out services bi-monthly with the addition of a dye gel added to their holding tanks that will ensure the cleanest waters possible in Redondo Beach.”
Since the lease transfer last year, King Harbor has made changes such as a new digital parking system and layoffs of several staff members.
The eviction of liveaboards has stirred up complaints and unpopular opinions throughout the marina.
Boat owners who do not live on their boats have also expressed anger towards the changes to living aboard your boat because the liveaboards often help other boat owners with the upkeep of their neighboring boats by cleaning or maintaining them.
Many of the King Harbor residents who live on their boats full time are retirees living on fixed incomes who put much of their money into maintaining their boats. Fees for docking, bathroom usage, and laundry facilities can add up to about $1,000 a month, a price tag that is impossible to match when looking for an apartment to rent. Finding new slips in other marinas also puts them on a waitlist, making it another dead-end option.
Witzansky told FOX 11 News that the city is meeting with the new leaseholder and that he plans to put a stop to all eviction notices in the marina as of right now. Solutions have been an ongoing discussion. The Harbor Commission is outing the issue on their agenda and referring the matter to the City Attorney for review of the legality behind the evictions. For now, the issue has just been reprieved.
As new lease owners search for higher profits, others will face the same situation, which will ultimately end this lifestyle. Currently, in King Harbor, liveaboards are allowed but are not allowed to live next to or across from each other. Without holding a liveaboard status, people are allowed to stay on their boats nine nights per month.
The current King Harbor lease runs out in 2032, at which time Aaker suggested the (new) lessee will be expected to make $30 to $40 million payments in improvements to the marina. This would include new docks, higher pylons, raised sidewalks for an expected sea-level rise, upgraded electrical, and ADA. Aaker asserts that the city will not extend the lease to Majestic if the improvements are not completed.
The monthly rent for a liveaboard is $354 for any-size slip. Now, with the added $125 pumping fee that was implemented on Jan. 14, rent is $479 per month. Some of the vessels that liveaboards reside on do not have holding tanks, meaning they are paying an extra $125 for nothing to be removed from their boats.
Amidst the marina’s 827 current slips, two of the 63 liveaboards have left since this concern began. There have been no direct reports of leaked sewage in the marina.
In early November 2021, Aaker called in liveaboards one by one to make them aware of the eviction notice that would be implemented within six months, according to the FOX 11 News report.
Majestic has jurisdiction in making certain aesthetic judgments. However, the boaters’ wharfage contract states that “the determination of the adequacy of a vessel’s appearance is within the sole discretion of the Marina.” Liveaboard rights, in general, are tied to the wharfage contracts, which Aaker noted in the Dec. 21 letter “are commercial in nature and do not establish a tenant-landlord relationship.”
The letter followed statements by Stephen Proud, newly retired Redondo Beach Waterfront and Economic Development director, at a Dec. 13 Harbor Commission meeting, stating the city was developing an education and awareness program in conjunction with Majestic to inform and educate liveaboards on how to keep the docks up to the lessee’s preference.
King Harbor has not always allowed liveaboards in the marina. Sometime before the 1990s, the Guthrie family went to the city for permission to add liveaboards. The increased slip fees for residents generated income and helped with security when there was no security guard at the harbor. Later, a night guard was added, but King Harbor Marina did not have 24-hour security until seven years ago.
Harbor Commission President Roger Carlson has asked for proof of poor water quality because of liveaboards and speculates that the fee may have been implemented to further push out liveaboards.