The leader of a group within the elite California Club that has been seeking to keep women out has written the club's board of directors claiming that a substantial proportion of the membership supports a move to circumvent a Los Angeles city ordinance banning membership discrimination.
John M. Robinson said that after two mailings from his group of 41 members to all 1,275 of the private downtown club's regular members, "responses have already been received from a majority . . . and of these, a comfortable majority have indicated support" for a house rule to get around the ordinance by banning business activities at the club.
The city ordinance that went into effect June 30 defines such clubs as the California Club as business organizations subject to the state's civil rights laws. By ruling out business entertainment and other activities, the Robinson group maintains that the club could legally ignore the ordinance.
Robinson said in his letter to the club's directors that only 12% of those responding to his group's call had indicated that they would resign from the club if business activities were banned there.
Nowhere in the letter, however, did he give any precise figure of responses received or what the exact tallies had been. Last June, 90% of California Club members voting approved a bylaw change that would permit the admission of women for the first time in the club's 100-year history.
Robinson, 77, a former California Club president who sent out a mailing to 120 private clubs throughout the state last spring saying that such clubs have a right to discriminate, told the board they should act to adopt the house rule now.
He said this would preserve the club's freedom of action to keep out women while the U.S. Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of a New York City anti-discrimination ordinance similar to the Los Angeles ordinance.
"The California Club is widely and justly recognized as being one of the finest, if not the finest, town club in the United States," he wrote. "We think that it should take the lead, as an example for others, in defending, not in surrendering, its freedom."
California Club President Lawrence P. Day, who has been critical of the efforts of the Robinson group, asking club members not to support it, declined comment Friday on the latest Robinson letter. Day has previously said the California Club has several women in the process of becoming members, although none have yet done so..
Meanwhile, in another development, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Atty. James Hahn said the city attorney's office is considering whether to file a suit against another private downtown group, the Jonathan Club, which recently began admitting women but still keeps them out of certain rooms, such as the Men's Grill and the library.
Mike Qualls said a discriminatory ban on the use of some club facilities would also appear to be a violation of the Los Angeles ordinance.
The city attorney's office recently sued the Brentwood Country Club on somewhat similar grounds.