The Avalon City Council has appointed Councilman Paul Puma to represent the city in negotiating a new lease with the Tuna Club, a private, all-male sportfishing club that rents its waterfront facilities from the city.
The current lease, under which the club pays $4,800 a year, expires this month. Earlier this year, club officials advised the city that they would exercise a 10-year renewal option included in the old lease. Under that option, the club's rent will increase to $6,000 a year in January, 1990.
City and club officials said both sides could choose to allow the existing 10-year option to run out, but City Manager Chuck Prince said the city would prefer a new lease that would allow limited public access to the facility.
Councilwoman Irene Strobel, however, has said that because the private club is on public property, she would like the lease to include language ensuring equal access to the facilities for women.
The city began an inquiry into the club's operation in October, 1988, after Strobel asked the city attorney to investigate whether the club restricted its membership to men, and whether such a restriction on public property would violate state and federal laws.
Last July, the city accepted assurances in a letter from the club that it does not discriminate against women. The June 9 letter said that the club "does not and will not discriminate in the operation and utilization of club facilities." In earlier letters, club officials advised the city that the club does not discriminate against women in its membership policies and has had female members in the past.
In an interview Wednesday, Puma said he hoped to meet with a club representative this week. Puma said he would work to reach a new lease agreement with the club by the end of the year.
If no new lease agreement is reached, the city could allow the 10-year option to continue until its expiration in 1999, city officials said.
Major issues under negotiation include club maintenance and improvements and limited access for service and community organizations, Puma said. The club's policy toward women is not an issue in the lease negotiations, he said.
"We've cleared up the matter," Puma said. "We've been advised by the club and their attorney that they are not discriminating against women in any way."
City Manager Chuck Prince, Mayor Hugh T. (Bud) Smith and Councilman Hal Host have met with club officials three times since September to discuss the lease, Prince said.
"What I would hope to see in any new lease agreement is standard language relating to equal opportunity and access to the facility," Prince said.
Tuna Club President Jim Martin said it has been more than a month since club officials last met with the city, and that the club was waiting to hear from the city about a new lease.
"We're happy with the lease we have now," Martin said. "It's good for another 10 years."
However, Strobel said this week that she still wanted the city to seek some mechanism in the lease agreement for monitoring the club's accessibility to women.
"I'm back where I was a year ago, back at point A," Strobel said.