Santa Monica Observer Issue 18 : Page 1

Airport Park opens, Dogged by controversy

A Santa Monica city ban on dogs from Los Angeles using the off-leash area of the new Santa Monica Airport Park has dogs owners in Mar Vista growling.<br /> <br /> Under the Santa Monica city code, only dogs with tags from that city are allowed in the offleash area at the park, which opened Sunday at the northwest corner of Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue.<br /> <br /> Among protesting Angelenos is Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who noted in a statement cited by the Los Angeles Times that L.A. residents live close by and will be affected by traffic to and from the location, but won't be able to exercise their dogs there.<br /> <br /> Rosendahl, whose district includes Mar Vista (and who lives with a dog in Mar Vista); said he hopes to work out a compromise with Santa Monica officials.<br /> <br /> Tom Ponton, vice chairman of the Mar Vista Community Council, said it was ridiculous that Santa Monica is barring Los Angeles dogs from a park "in Mar Vista's backyard, which most of us can walk to." He added that Mar Vista residents "pay a lot of taxes in Santa Monica ... when we eat in a restaurant or patronize a business."<br /> <br /> Legal experts say the U.S. Constitution prevents municipalities from discriminating against non-city residents, in the use of public facilities. It is unclear, however, if the Equal Protection clause applies to dogs.<br /> <br /> Barbara Stinchfield, Santa Monica's director of community and cultural services, told The<br /> <br /> L. A. Times that the ordinance at issue dated from the early 1990s,<br /> When the city began building offleash areas.<br /> <br /> She noted that the vast majority of the eight-acre airport park, which features a large grassy area, a soccer field and children's play equipment, is open to all visitors and leashed dogs, no matter their addresses. Only the off-leash dog park area, at less than an acre, is restricted.<br /> <br /> Stinchfield said the city was considering trying to define a radius that would include portions of Los Angeles whose residents could use the dog park.<br /> <br /> Litigious Mutt: Above, Mar Vista resident “Samson” fiiling suit in Federal Court Tuesday.<br /> <br /> Samson’s lawsuit alleges that the City of Santa Monica banned him from its new dogpark, engaging in discrimanation in violation of the 4th and 5th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act.<br /> <br /> The City counters that Samson is not a “Person,” within the meaning of the Constitution, and that in any event, his breath stinks.<br /> <br /> He hands the court clerk his legalpapers, above.<br /> <br /> When she said that they had to be dry, he filed a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, since he uses his mouth.

City votes to ban jets and “non-conforming” signs

The Santa Monica Airport Commission voted on May 1st to cordon off nearly 1,200 feet of a runway at the Santa Monica Airport, despite assertions from FAA officials that such restrictions would not be allowed. The move is the latest effort from the city to restrict jet traffic.<br /> <br /> The airport has become increasingly popular over the last two decades, much to the dismay of neighbors. A few hundred residents and politicians rallied at the airport recently to protest noise and air pollution.<br /> <br /> The new resolution would block 600 feet at each end of the 5,000-foot runway as a “safety area.” Commission vice-chair Susan Hartley told The Lookout News she voted for the measure because “it will protect Los Angeles and Santa Monica residents.” FAA officials have told the commission that any action that would restrict access is “not acceptable.” The FAA has asked the city to reduce its existing “safety area” on the west end of the runway from 300 feet to 165 feet. More than 18,000 jet movements occur at the airport each year.<br /> <br /> In an unrelated action, the City Planning and Zoning Department began to enforce a ban against commercial properties with “non-conforming” signs. Some attorneys say this seems to conflict with the apparent “vested right” of business owners to keep signs they erected years ago.<br /> <br /> The signs, which often date from the 19780’s or before, are larger or in places, such as roofs, that current City zoning ordinances don’t allow. Despite the fact that the signs were legal, and Granted when the signs were new, the City feels that property owners do not have a vested right to the signs.<br /> <br /> About 265 commercial property owners are affected, according to Rochelle Brooks, a City Compliance Officer. She said 265 property owners have been sent notices, giving them until May 21, 2007 to remove the signs, or apply anew for variances.<br /> <br /> “They can apply, but in most cases the applications will be denied and the signs are coming down.” Signs with historic or cultural or artistic significance may be exempt. On Lincoln Blvd., the Arby’s restaurant sign and the Dr. Beauchamp’s Western Dental penguin sign, have already won exemptions to the City’s take down order.

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