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Gripes Revive La Canada's Bid to Rein in Horse Owners

June 27, 1985|THERESA WALKER | Times Staff Writer

Attached to the for-sale sign in the front yard of a home on Beulah Drive in La Canada Flintridge is a shingle advertising the residence as "horse property."

Many homeowners on such streets as Beulah, Commonwealth Avenue, Woodleigh Lane and Berkshire Avenue, the area commonly referred to as "horse country," say they bought their property so they could keep their horses in their backyards and be close to the city's extensive system of bridle trails.

But there are some residents who are not too happy with their neighbors' horses. To them, living in horse country means living with flies, dust and odors and being deprived of the enjoyment of their backyards.

Horse country, said one angry homeowner who refused to give her name because she feared "retribution" from her horse-owning neighbors, "is an absolute mess of people doing whatever they damn well please to the detriment of others in the name of riding horses."

Tougher Rules Asked

She and other horseless residents want the city to toughen its animal-keeping regulations and provide more thorough enforcement.

But horse owners say complaints of abuse are exaggerated and blame whatever problems may exist on a few "bad guys." They feel that current regulations are adequate.

"You don't punish the whole neighborhood because you have one person who has become a nuisance," said Fred Barnett, a horse lover who keeps six Missouri foxtrotters in the backyard of his home on Commonwealth Avenue.

About 150 to 200 horses are kept at private residences in the city, most on property in the Flintridge area below Foothill Boulevard, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Animal Care and Control.

City Backed Off Before

The city backed off six years ago from addressing the touchy issue of keeping horses because of the emotions it stirred on both sides of the backyard fence. Now it is again trying to work out an equitable solution to its equine problem. The passage of time, however, has not made the issue any easier.

After two recent public hearings and numerous phone calls, Rob Jones, senior city planner, has concluded that "there doesn't appear to be a lot of compromise on this issue." A third public hearing is scheduled for the commission's July 9 meeting.

"Where can we draw the line?" asked Jones, who recognizes that both sides have rights. "What kind of regulations can we impose where horses can still be enjoyed by individual property owners but not impact on adjacent homeowners?"

Jones has been working closely with the Planning Commission in its re-examination of Los Angeles County's regulations on keeping animals, which La Canada Flintridge adopted when it incorporated in 1976.

Disgruntled homeowners complain about neighbors not cleaning up after their horses. They complain about neighbors keeping more horses on their property than legally allowed. They are especially upset about neighbors who, they contend, board horses for profit, attracting strangers to their neighborhoods.

One resident of Berkshire Avenue described her relations with certain neighbors as "bitter." The woman, who declined to give her name, said one family has 13 horses, another 11 and another eight. She is convinced that they are boarding horses commercially.

"The main problem aside from flies and the smell is that I really don't know who's parking down the street, where all the kids are coming from," the woman said. "I object to my street being turned into commercial property.

"These people are getting $1,000 a month. We have the nuisance of their profit and I don't think that's fair."

Charges Hard to Prove

Those who suspect their neighbors of boarding horses say that such allegations are hard to prove. "Who can say whose horses belong to whom? They don't have any serial numbers on them," said Howard Vivian, a property owner who does not keep horses.

Horse owners acknowledge that quite a few people board horses, but they insist it is done as favors to friends in the community and not for profit. Even though such so-called "accommodation boarding" is illegal under the county regulations, it should be allowed to continue, they say.

Accommodation boarding, said horse owner Suzanne John, particularly benefits young people who can't afford to pay the $150 to $200 a month that a commercial boarding stable would charge. She said that keeping the horses in the community is more convenient for youths who don't drive. "This way some of these kids can just get on their bicycles and ride down to their horses," she said.

At the first public hearing of the Planning Commission in April, the city dusted off a proposed animal ordinance drafted in 1979 in response to complaints. That draft never got beyond discussion because of the controversy it stirred, said Jane Hogle, a member of the Planning Commission since 1976.

"A lot of people can't make up their minds what they want done about them, so we coast along using the county ordinances," she said.

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