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Self-Styled Santa Claus to Trim His Yule Glow

November 19, 1987|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

Christmas will come only once a year for Glendale's self-styled Santa Claus, city officials ordered Wednesday.

Robert George, 63, said he reluctantly signed a settlement with Glendale officials Wednesday morning in an effort to stave off a lawsuit filed against him by the city.

"It just hurts me because it's going to spoil Christmas for a lot of people and children," George said of the agreement.

Last December, George's neighbors began complaining to city officials about traffic and noise caused by gawkers passing George's red-and-white home, which was decked out in 30,000 Christmas lights, a white flocked roof, 96 Christmas trees, a red-carpeted driveway and dozens of yuletide decorations.

Yuletide Grinches

But George enlisted the aid of attorney Gloria Allred, who orchestrated a headline-grabbing battle that cast city officials as yuletide Grinches. The campaign won George and his "Santa's Dream House" a temporary reprieve from city demands until after the holiday season.

In September, however, city officials filed a lawsuit against George, claiming his year-round Christmas is a public nuisance to neighbors.

George retaliated later that month with a $1.5-million lawsuit claiming that city officials caused him emotional and mental distress by singling him out unfairly for zoning enforcement, for trespassing on his property and for continued harassment after he corrected several building code violations.

In the settlement, the city ordered that George turn off the more than 30,000 Christmas lights strung in patterns along the eaves of his home except for six weeks during the holiday season, add no more Christmas decorations to the outside of his house, refrain from advertising his home as Santa's residence, and keep the public, except for relatives and close friends, off his property.

Monthly Visits Allowed

The city, however, did agree to allow visits by two terminally ill children each month.

George said he is nevertheless unhappy with the settlement because he can no longer invite retarded children and senior citizens to share in the Christmas spirit at his home.

"A lot of people are going to be hurt," George said. "I had 15 retarded children coming to visit . . . now I have to tell them they can't come."

Meanwhile, George, who sports a real curly white beard and wears red-and-white Christmas costumes year-round, said he will pursue his lawsuit against the city and will run for Glendale City Council in the next election in April, 1989.

"Let's take the Scrooges out of City Hall and put the Christmas spirit there where it belongs," he said.

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