After a year of fighting City Hall for approval to open a private social club in Atwater, an Argentine group lost an important round Tuesday when the Planning and Environment Committee of the Los Angeles City Council opposed the proposal.
The committee voted to deny permits for drinking and dancing as requested by the Argentine Assn. of Los Angeles, saying that the proposed club would be in a residential neighborhood with insufficient parking.
"There are some serious questions in my mind about adequate parking and the adverse effect it would have on the area," said Councilman Hal Bernson, one of the three committee members.
The full City Council is expected to make a final decision next Wednesday.
The site proposed by the Argentines is at a former thrift shop at 3160 Glendale Blvd., a main thoroughfare lined with small businesses that adjoins a residential neighborhood. The association bought the building about a year ago with the intention of using it for meetings and weekend social gatherings. It houses the association's office.
At Tuesday's hearing, Ed Fernandez, a representative of the association, charged the committee and Atwater residents with discrimination, saying his group is a charitable organization that has been denied the right to open a family-oriented social center.
Fernandez offered to pay for the use of 17 parking sites in a city-owned lot near the rear of the building and to accommodate other group members with metered street parking. He also offered to limit the number of guests' cars to the parking spaces available.
In an earlier hearing, city officials determined that the club would have to provide members with about 80 parking spots to handle the expected crowds.
Capt. Noel Cunningham, in charge of the Northeast Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, told the hearing he fears the club would cause increased crime by attracting robbers to the parked cars.
Residents Tell Concerns
Several Atwater residents who showed up to protest the club expressed concern that it would increase noise and crime. Susan Van Horn, who represents a local merchants' group, the Boulevard Business Assn., said the site is better suited for retail use.
Approving the Argentines' proposal would "restrict further commercial development," argued Arline DeSanctis, who opposed the social club on behalf of Councilman Joel Wachs, who has been representing the area.
The committee voted 2 to 0 against the Argentine proposal. Councilman Mike Woo left before the vote.
The City Council often accepts the recommendation of its committees, but the Argentine group has tried to enlist outside support.
Last year, the acting consul of the Republic of Argentina said he was asked by the Argentine Assn. to intercede with state and city officials on behalf of his countrymen.
The consul, Jorge Lidio Vinuela, contacted Secretary of State March Fong Eu and Mayor Tom Bradley, who said they would look into the matter.