Pressed by a roomful of demonstrators to expel the South African consulate from Beverly Hills, City Council members Tuesday said they lacked the power to do so but promised instead to issue a resolution condemning apartheid.
"We can't push them out," said Mayor Edward I. Brown. "The landlord is the one who determines if he wants a tenant or not. Under our zoning laws they have the right to lease here unless safety or public health is an issue."
However, he said, the council's agenda next week will include a resolution "indicating that we are against what's happening in South Africa." All five council members said they would support the resolution.
The action came after several speeches from representatives of groups making up the Los Angeles chapter of an umbrella group known as the Free South Africa movement.
About 85 demonstrators filled the council chambers, waving anti-apartheid signs and alternately cheering, booing and hissing as the 40-minute discussion proceeded.
"Beverly Hills cannot rightly be called the garden spot of the world as long as it is the home of the South African consulate," said Ron Wilkins, a coordinator of the group.
If the city cannot expel the consulate, he said, there are other actions that can be taken to show dissatisfaction with the policies of the South African regime.
These could include renaming the portion of Wilshire Boulevard where the consulate is located to honor Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress, he said.
The city could also decide to cut off any cultural or economic contact with South Africa, he said.
At the South African consulate, spokesman Chris Liebenberg said he had no word of the city's intentions.
"We as South Africans don't mix into the internal affairs of the United States," he said. "If they want to do something about our presence here, it is up to them to do so. It's their business."
Although speakers at the Council meeting said the consulate had been forced to leave San Francisco in 1981 by an action by that city's Board of Supervisors, Liebenberg denied it.
"We definitely moved here because Los Angeles is the biggest business district in California," he said. "To stay in a small place was not making any sense at all."
The demonstrators came to City Hall after calling off a picket line outside the Beverly Theater, where entertainer Pia Zadora was scheduled to perform in a one-woman concert.
While Zadora has not performed in South Africa, her appearance there to promote a film in 1982 amounted to a violation of a cultural boycott of the country declared by the United Nations, Wilkins said.
But he said the picketing was called off because the entertainer issued a statement condemning apartheid and promising not to return to South Africa.