Disregarding the protests of property owners and members of a Mormon church, the Los Angeles City Council on Friday relaxed restrictions on an Encino Armenian school that had been operating with nearly twice the number of students allowed by its zoning permits.
The council voted 13 to 1 to overturn a zoning administrator's ruling that the Holy Martyrs Armenian School on White Oak Avenue must reduce its enrollment from nearly 650 to 350, its legal limit. The council action raised the enrollment limit to 650 and set 24 conditions on the school and an adjoining church to prevent disruption of its neighbors.
Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents the district in which the school is situated, cast the only dissenting vote.
Braude scolded his colleagues for closing their eyes to what he described as the school's "substantial abuses" and later said he thought the council had been influenced by heavy lobbying by the Armenian community and politicians.
Glendale City Councilman Larry Zarian said he contacted several City Council members in an attempt to work out a solution. Some council members said they received a letter from Supervisor Mike Antonovich supporting the school. Former Assemblyman Walter J. Karabian also spoke before the council's Planning Committee in favor of the school, Braude said.
"I think there's no question that that had a very substantial impact upon the council," Braude said.
However, before voting, several council members said they decided to support the school primarily because they believe it is providing a valuable service.
"In the final analysis, I have a huge soft spot in my heart for children . . . and especially for people who want to give their kids more than a secular education," Westside Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said.
Middle East Violence
A spokesman for the school told the council that the huge growth in enrollment has resulted from the flight of Armenians from violence in the Middle East.
Attorney Leon Kirikosian said the school is providing a valuable service by keeping the children of these immigrant families from becoming a burden on the public school system.
Opponents of the school told the council that the campus and the adjoining Armenian church have committed flagrant violations of their city-imposed regulations over the last decade.
Three homeowners complained at Friday's session that they are constantly bothered by noise, traffic and loitering during events at the school and church.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is next to the school, sent a 10-page letter to the council in September, complaining about the activities of the school and church.
"Our members are constantly harassed verbally by the Armenians who use our parking lot," the letter said.
A spokeswoman for the Mormon church told the council Friday that the church's landscaping and a wall have been damaged by trespassers from the Armenian school and church.
Councilman Howard Finn, chairman of the Planning and Environment Committee, said he believes the problems will be resolved by the 24 conditions placed on the school.
Under those, the school is required to maintain 206 parking spaces on the property and to build an eight-foot masonry wall along its common property lines. It will be prohibited from using amplified sound systems and from holding events on Saturday or Sunday and before 7:30 a.m. or after 7:30 p.m. weekdays.
The school's compliance with the conditions will be reviewed in one year.