In search of safe harbor
By Ruben Vives
Harold Hazelton can’t imagine living on land.
For more than 30 years, the 76-year-old and his wife, Donna, 75, have resided on their 43-foot Grand Mariner at Colonial Yacht Anchorage in Wilmington. That soon will end.
The Hazeltons are among 95 tenants who face eviction Tuesday, the result of port officials having labeled the marina’s dock and its 138 slips in Berth 204 as too dilapidated to be safe.
But moving isn’t easy, particularly for the 11 tenants who live on their boats.
“We were blindsided by this,” said John Loftus, 63, who has live-aboard status. “It’s a real hardship to find a new place.”
That is partly because the Los Angeles Harbor Department has a 5% live-aboard cap for each marina operator and, according to Hazelton, most are already at that limit.
Rent is another issue. Hazelton, for example, paid $636 a month for the boat slip and said moving to another marina would more than double that. Another hurdle: The boat’s engine doesn’t work. To fix it, he said, would cost as much as $3,000.
That is why the Hazeltons, who live on a fixed income, are afraid their boat will be impounded when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department finalizes the eviction order.
Faye Jeffries, 59, and her husband, James Schneider, 71, are just as worried.
“It’s maddening not being sure what’s going to happen,” Jeffries said. “We were ambushed by this.”
She and other boat owners contend that city and port officials, as well as the marina operators, did not inform them of the eviction plans — until an eviction sign, dated March 22, was posted on the front gates of the marina.
“There were rumors, but no one knew anything,” Jeffries said.
City and harbor officials said last week that they’re willing to waive the live-aboard limit and would provide free housing services for anyone unable to leave by the deadline.
“The primary concern is the live-aboard,” said Janet Karkanen, Los Angeles deputy city attorney. “We really don’t want to displace someone who’s live-aboard. We’re trying to strike this balance of giving people time to move their boats and keep the area safe.”
She also acknowledged that boaters should have been notified of the legal proceedings but said the city assumed the marina operators had done that.
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