The issue of horses versus houses in Atwater drew an overflow crowd Tuesday to Los Angeles City Hall.
About 120 people showed up to protest a proposed zoning change. They quickly filled the 81 seats in the hearing room and stood along the walls and in the narrow aisles.
The protesters gathered for a hearing on a developer's request for a zoning change to permit construction of 60 to 80 apartments or condominiums on the site of the 60-year-old Los Feliz Stables, on Rigali Avenue near the end of Garden Avenue. The site is now zoned for light agricultural use.
Local residents argued that the apartments would lead to an increase in local crime and traffic congestion. Horse owners said they fear that the loss of equestrian-use property would have a "domino effect," resulting in the loss of several other horse stables in the area, many of which have been there since the 1920s and 1930s.
John Parker, the hearing examiner, listened as about a dozen people testified in opposition to the proposed change during the nearly two-hour meeting.
Martha Lane, a 91-year-old Atwater resident, told Parker that she rides her horse at the threatened stables every day as therapy. "I recently had the same operation as the President," she said, referring to President Reagan's recent cancer operation, "and I want to ride my horse too."
The comment brought cheers from the crowd, some dressed in business suits, others in blue jeans and Western-style shirts. Many rode to City Hall together in an old yellow school bus provided by the Griffith Park Horse Assn., a group of horse owners from the Glendale-Northeast Los Angeles area. Many of the association's members board their animals in Atwater stables for rides in the enormous park nearby.
Tom Winfield, a lawyer representing the Los Angeles-based developers, Parkview Apartments, told Parker that his clients were losing money on the property by leasing it to stable manager Jane Shaw as a horse boarding facility.
"The rent she is able to pay doesn't come close to paying the debt on that property," he said.
$2,500 Monthly Lease
Shaw said she leases the property for about $2,500 per month and could not afford to pay more.