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The problem is not with those $1,850 flats—they were snapped up with immodest haste—but with less prestigious ones in the $750-and-under range. Marina City Club has mobilized to fill the vacancies under the efficient direction of Trish Bohanan, the club's attractive, very efficient general manager.
"We feel our appeal will be to corporations, sophisticated individuals and celebrities," Miss Bohanan says. "This is a place where people can go for an evening without everybody oohing and aahing. The mood is what I call casual elegance."
The Marina City Club plans eventually to put up a casually elegant 800-room luxury hotel, and others are in the works. Until then, there is the comfortable, sprawling Marina del Rey Hotel, with its balloon-red minibuses shuttling to and from the airport. For tourists, there are diversions in Marina del Rey such as the Yankee Pedaler, where outlanders rent bicycles and set off in great packs along marina streets compellingly named Bora Bora or Fiji Way. The sugary expanse of sand just a few feet away in Venice is suitable for surfing or volleyball, and one can simply soak up sun at the marina's own little cove-shaped beach. Also, there are Fisherman's Village and the marina's 22 restaurants.
The entire scene has the busy atmosphere of a perpetual boat show. One can roam the patterned slips and never run out of gleaming craft to inspect, their sterns emblazoned with all those catchy names like Sea Ya Later, Tons-O' Fun, Y-Not or, simply, Boat ("I decided to just name it, already," Beverly Hills dentist Norman Krevoy explains).
The boats range in comfort from the shells of UCLA, whose crew trains in the marina's main channel, to the 73-foot Sagittarius, a $750,000 floating palace owned by Bob Leonard, who does well in discount stores. Sagittarius has a full-time skipper plus such Hefnerian touches as a king-size bed covered in rabbit skin, but otherwise it contrasts tastefully with the handful of yachts to be found at Marina del Rey whose owners insist on completely decorating the interiors in the color of a thousand canaries.
The marina has its share of distinguished sailors, but there are boating pleasures other than racing. Santa Monica Bay yields halibut, yellowtail and barracuda, and when the albacore or marlin are running in the waters beyond Catalina, 40 miles to the south, the exodus can take on armada proportions.
Set in a more populated area than Newport-Balboa, the old-line yachting retreat farther down the Southern California coast, Marina del Rey tends to attract newer money and less experienced boatsmen. Some owners, lacking any real commitment to boating, board their vessels only to sip frozen daiquiris at dock-side. And there are always defectors like Steve Picciolo, a Santa Monica businessman who recently slapped a for-sale sign on his 43-foot Gran Mariner Ours in hopes of making it somebody else's. Picciolo enjoys boating well enough but Beth, his wife of four years, calls it "the same old routine." Rejecting the alternative that has occurred to other men in like circumstances, her husband has agreed to give up boating.
To ease the congestion that sometimes develops in its 900-foot-wide entrance channel, Marina del Rey's boating community has agreed to honor traffic corridors, with sailboats tacking up the middle and powerboats keeping to the sides. Besides reducing some of the old friction between stinkpots and ragmen, this simple yet novel move has taken some of the urgency from the voice of Harbor Patrol Chief Leo Porter when he peers out of the window of Los Angeles County's marina headquarters and says, "You know, I could cross that channel by walking from boat to boat."
Neither Porter nor any other county official dares complain too strenuously. At a time when some public bodies have resorted in desperation to lotteries or off-track betting to raise money, Los Angeles County has a windfall in Marina del Rey. By parceling out property to developers under 60-year leases, it takes in $5 million a year in rentals and taxes. That is enough for the county to meet expenses, service the $13 million bond issue used to build the marina and still leave a $1.7 million surplus.
All this redounds to the glory of a powerful Los Angeles politician named Burton Chace, a longtime county supervisor whose district encompasses 68 miles of choicest Southern California coastline. Chace proudly tells of having fathered Marina del Rey, and aerial views of his baby adorn his walnut-paneled office in the massive Hall of Administration in downtown Los Angeles. "It's the greatest moneymaker the county has," Chace says, inspirationally jingling the coins in the pocket of his avocado-colored suit. "It's the greatest cooperation between government and private enterprise anybody has ever seen."