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Neighbors Oppose Permit for Pico Video Arcade

November 28, 1985|JULIE OGASAWARA | Times Staff Writer

A proposed conditional-use permit that would allow a 60-game video arcade on Pico Boulevard near Overland Avenue to move two blocks east has drawn surprisingly strong objections from neighbors, according to city officials and arcade owners.

About 60 residents who live near the proposed new site at 10670-72 Pico Blvd. attended a public zoning hearing in mid-November and said that Captain Video Games would attract teen-age loiterers and create noise, parking, traffic and crime problems. Michael McClelland, president of Center Courts Amusement Centers Inc., which owns Captain Video, has said the the neighbors' concerns are exaggerated.

So strong was the opposition that Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky's office arranged a meeting last week with residents and the arcade owners to try to come up with a compromise.

But homeowner representatives decided after the meeting that no conditions would sufficiently mitigate the negative effects of the arcade on the neighborhood, according to Terri Tippit of the Westside Homeowners Alliance, which represents six homeowners groups in West Los Angeles.

Captain Video's existing lease ran out Nov. 1 and the arcade is renting on a monthly basis, McClelland said. Center Courts signed a lease for the new site effective Sept. 1, but cannot operate there until it receives approval from the Office of Zoning Administration.

Associate Zoning Administrator Jack C. Sedwick, who is handling the dispute, said he will decide whether to grant the conditional-use permit in coming weeks.

Yaroslavsky said Captain Video's good track record does not warrant denial of a conditional-use permit. "You can't speculate that someone who has been a good neighbor (will) become a bad neighbor," he said, adding that Captain Video has "bent over backwards" in the past to accommodate the needs of neighbors.

But the residents are adamantly opposed to the arcade.

Many of them who testified at the Nov. 12 hearing said they were not opposed to Captain Video itself, but said an arcade is inappropriate in a residential neighborhood. Some said they were afraid of a rise in crime.

"You'd have nothing but a hangout," said Elaine Gittelson, who lives across from the proposed site. "You'd have more purse snatchings because they'd need money to play those darn things."

In an interview after the hearing McClelland countered that "we have no reason to believe that we'd attract any more crime than any other business."

McClelland said there has been no significant increase in crime in the area since the arcade opened at its present site five years ago. (The Los Angeles Police Department does not have specific statistics for Pico Boulevard, according to Officer John Beeson of the West Los Angeles Division of the Police Department.)

During the hearing, residents claimed that the arcade would become a hangout for teen-agers, but McClelland said that a survey of more than 500 Captain Video customers showed that the average age of patrons is 28.

The Office of Zoning Administration has been flooded with paper during the dispute. Residents have presented Sedwick with 200 letters of protest and a petition signed by 29 merchants who are opposed to the new site because they say it would be bad for their businesses. (McClelland said that according to a market study, 89% of the Captain Video customers patronized other businesses during their visit to the arcade.)

Sedwick said he also received dozens letters in support of granting the permit to Captain Video from charitable organizations, schools and other groups that have benefited from Captain Video's community activities.

Of the seven people who testified at the hearing in support of granting the permit, most cited Captain Video's involvement in helping community groups. Some also mentioned the benefits of a supervised area for young people to gather.

A Yaroslavsky aide said that the City Council requires businesses such as adult entertainment, massage parlors and video arcades to obtain conditional-use permits to operate. Conditions include limits on closing time, noise and permission to serve alcoholic beverages.

Video arcades have been subject to conditional-use permits since August, 1981, according to Andrew Monte-Alegre of the Department of City Planning.

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