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Council to Study Panel’s Call for Mini-Golf Bids

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday took control from park authorities of the tangled bidding on the miniature golf and video-game concession in the Sepulveda Basin--a contract that may bring the city more than $1 million a year.

By an 11-1 vote, lawmakers--led by Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the basin area--put the council in a position to decide the concession issue itself or require park authorities to reconsider the matter.

On Dec. 9, the city’s Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners voted unanimously to reject all bids for the concession and to seek new bids--a process that might take six months.

Delays in awarding the concession will cost the financially strapped city tens of thousands of dollars in lost rent receipts, Yaroslavsky warned his colleagues during the lengthy council debate.

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The concession holder leases the land from the city parks commission. Malibu Grand Prix, which has been the concessionaire since 1984, paid $493,051 in rent to the city last year, making the concession one of the city’s most profitable. Malibu, whose lease expired two years ago, reported that it grossed $2.9 million last year.

All five bidders for the concession--including Malibu Grand Prix--have proposed paying the city more than Malibu is now paying, Yaroslavsky said.

Malibu and a second bidder, Camelot Park Family Entertainment Center, have each offered the city a minimum annual rent of $1 million for the 15-year concession.

Yaroslavsky said a six-month delay in processing new bids could cost the city $500,000 in lost rent. “A half-million dollars to the Recreation and Parks Department is not chicken feed,” Yaroslavsky said.

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The amusement park includes a 54-hole miniature golf complex, nine batting cages and 144 video games. Officially named the Sepulveda Basin Miniature Golf Complex, it is widely known as the Sherman Oaks Castle because of the castle replica that stands on the golf course.

In its vote Wednesday, the council invoked Proposition 5, approved by voters in June, which gives the council authority to review any action by a city board or commission.

The council has 21 days in which to decide what to do next. Its options include: selecting one of the five bidders itself, ordering the commission to vacate its Dec. 9 decision and to select one of the five bidders based on their previous submissions, or letting the commission’s prior decision stand.

During the next 21 days, the council’s Finance and Budget Committee, chaired by Yaroslavsky, and its Arts, Health and Humanities Committee, chaired by Councilman Joel Wachs, will review the matter and make recommendations to the full council.

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If the council fails to act in 21 days, the parks commission’s decision becomes final.

In voting to seek new bids, the commission set aside the initial advice of its staff to award the bid to the Camelot firm. The commission was persuaded by the claims of two of the losing bidders who complained that they had not submitted the best bids because the city’s bidding process had confused them.

The award of the concession has attracted lobbying activities and a lawsuit. Malibu Grand Prix, the current concessionaire, has been lobbying for an immediate award either by the commission or by the council. The firm has attorney Cindy Ryan, a former aide to Mayor Tom Bradley, as its lobbyist. Malibu has also filed a Superior Court lawsuit alleging that Camelot used trade secrets that it stole from Malibu to improve its bid.

Supporting a process that would lead to the submission of new bids has been American Fun Parks, which has hired former Councilman David Cunningham as its lobbyist. American is 75% owned by David Price, a Santa Monica-based businessman whose firm, American Golf Corp., manages full-sized golf courses nationwide.

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