An Argentine group's plan to open a private social club in Atwater was unanimously defeated Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council, which ruled that parking for the dance and meeting hall would be inadequate to support it.
The action, by an 11-0 vote, ended a long-running battle between the Argentine Assn. of Los Angeles and community groups who claimed the club would damage nearby businesses and neighborhoods. The association had planned for more than a year to establish the club in an unused thrift shop at 3160 Glendale Blvd., in an area where small shops lie adjacent to single-family homes.
"The Atwater area has a nice village atmosphere," said City Councilman Michael Woo, who joined council members Joel Wachs and Robert Farrell in leading the negative vote. "I think a project of this sort would be detrimental to that area."
Community representatives urged council members to deny permits that would have allowed drinking and dancing at the site, largely because the club would have provided none of its own parking space. The club would have shared part of a small public lot now used by boulevard merchants.
"We don't feel they should be allowed to commandeer the public lot and the public parking" along the street, Ed Waite, president of the Atwater Homeowners Assn., told council members. "And people coming out in the early morning hours are going to create quite a problem for people trying to sleep."
Martin Kristal, an attorney representing the Argentine group, argued that the club would not hurt merchants or residents, likening the facility to a Kiwanis or Elks club. It would enable families with common heritage to get together for evening activities that would conclude by 1 a.m. Under restrictions proposed by a city planners, crowds would be limited to 250 persons, he said.
"We believe the decision was based on erroneous information and a misinterpretation of the facts," he said in an interview following the council action. The existing parking lot, he said, is enough to support shop owners by day and the social club by night.
"There are a lot of marginal businesses there," Kristal said. "And everybody's closed in the evening."
In the past, the Argentines charged that the neighborhood opposition was prompted by racial discrimination. Residents in the heavily Latino area have denied those charges, however.
Kristal and Ed Fernandez, a representative of the association, said they would have to confer with the organization's board members to decide what further action to take. If it is impossible to establish the club at the proposed site, the 20-year-old nonprofit group would likely search for an alternative location, Fernandez said.
"I'm disappointed," he said. "It's a lot of wasted time and wasted money."