A controversial bill that could block a drive to incorporate Marina del Rey has abruptly gained a new author and turned into a legislative hot potato.
First, Sen. Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), who pushed the bill through the Local Government Committee and onto the Senate floor last month, dropped his proposal, citing "in-house wrangling."
Then, lobbyists for the Marina del Rey Lessees Assn., a major backer of the bill, persuaded Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier) to step in to carry it. But Montoya said he was uncertain when he would seek passage.
Since taking over the bill, Montoya said, he has been approached by two colleagues who are concerned about the measure. One, Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), who purchased a portion of two marina leaseholds last year, expressed concern that the bill could hurt him politically, Montoya said. And Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) was equally disturbed that Montoya was carrying a bill that affects her district.
Lockyer introduced the measure early this year, proposing that areas containing more than 50% public land be barred from incorporating because they would not have an adequate tax base to support city services. Although the bill does not name the marina, Lockyer has talked about how the measure could short-circuit cityhood for the 803-acre enclave of county-owned land on the coast between Venice and Playa del Rey.
At the heart of the issue is whether marina residents will be able to continue their cityhood drive after Jan. 1, when the bill would take effect if passed by both houses and signed by the governor. Cityhood supporters have gathered more than 1,400 signatures of registered voters in an attempt to place the issue on the ballot.
Watson, who has not taken a stand on marina incorporation, has been a leading opponent of the measure. In the past she has said, "To impose a state solution to a local problem is unjust."
Robbins repeatedly has denied any role in the proposal. The senator said he has been told "by at least one colleague that he was urged to vote for the bill on the basis that to do so would score points with Robbins." The San Fernando Valley lawmaker insisted that he has not been involved in lobbying for the bill and said he had underscored that point to his colleagues.
"I've fully complied with disclosure laws that indicate I have an interest," Robbins added. "I've made it clear I'm going to abstain."
Last year, Robbins and his partners, including Los Angeles lawyer Doug Ring and his father, Selden Ring, bought leaseholds for Deauville and Bar Harbor marinas valued at $36.9 million.
The Rings have hired Jerry Zanelli, a Sacramento lobbyist and former executive officer of the Senate Rules Committee, to watch out for their interests in Sacramento. Zanelli also represents other marina landlords.
But in a recent interview, Doug Ring insisted that the family had not talked to Robbins about the bill. "And I honestly believe that to do so would be inappropriate," Ring said.