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Stables May Become Base for LAPD's Horse Patrol

November 26, 1987|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

The Los Feliz Stables in Atwater, deserted since a long-simmering feud ended in eviction of its manager last year, may again be home to horses.

Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates will ask the Police Commission on Dec. 8 to recommend a $729,609 appropriation to replace his department's volunteer horse patrol with a full-time mounted squad and base it at the stables, according to Assistant Police Chief Robert Vernon.

A report submitted to the commission by Gates said the Ahmanson Foundation has tentatively agreed to purchase the stables and donate the two-acre parcel to the city for the mounted unit. That would save the city $495,000 needed to purchase the property and could be a deciding factor in the fate of the mounted patrol proposal, said Ronald Banks, Metropolitan Division commanding officer.

"The time is right and a mounted unit is definitely a perceived necessity," Banks said. "I'm not sure one depends on the other, but the importance of the Los Feliz site is we have made that our primary choice. If (Robert) Ahmanson chose to buy the site it would certainly put some sort of onus on the city fathers to act."

Representatives of the Ahmanson Foundation would not confirm that their organization had expressed interest in the site.

Unit Sidelined

The 45-officer volunteer unit has been sidelined since July 1 when officers who patrol on their own horses decided that the cost of transporting horses and equipment to more than 130 events a year was too much of a financial burden.

Officers are paid for their time and reimbursed at the rate of 25 cents a mile to get their horses to work sites. But the number of mounted patrol details has increased from nine when the unit was created in 1981 to 134, making it more economical for the Police Department to establish a full-time mounted patrol, Vernon said.

The requested city appropriation for the full-time unit, which would have to be approved by the Board of Police Commissioners, City Council and mayor, also would pay for purchasing 40 horses, equipping them and building of new stables on the site. The Los Feliz Stables date back to 1920 and are in poor condition, Vernon said.

The site is adjacent to a 1 1/2-acre vacant lot owned by the Department of Recreation and Parks, which Vernon said would be ideal for the 32-officer permanent mounted patrol to train the horses.

The fate of the popular Rigali Avenue stables has been the object of a dispute that began two years ago when Park View Apartments, owner of the land, applied for a zone change that would have allowed it to raze the stables and build about 40 condominiums on the site, which is zoned for light agricultural use.

Park View is general partner with financially troubled Ashkenazy Enterprises, a large real estate company that owns a number of luxury hotels. The company also built the 217-unit Los Feliz Village Apartments, which border the Los Feliz Stables on the east.

Zone Change Opposed

Homeowners and equestrians opposed the zone change at several public hearings in the fall of 1985. Shortly after, the company filed for protection from creditors under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and began trying to sell the land.

The last development in the feud occurred last year when Park View won a court battle and evicted stable manager Jane Shaw, who, until Aug. 31, 1986, rented the land.

Shaw, who now owns the Thumbs Up Riding Club nearby, had been negotiating to buy the property but could not meet Park View's asking price.

"It's a stroke of luck that the Police Department is interested in the property and can afford it," Shaw said. "It's great for the horse neighborhood because that property will remain horses, and I don't think you could have better neighbors than the Los Angeles Police Department. The residents that I've talked to love the idea."

Atwater Homeowner Assn. President Edward Waite said members of the group endorsed the Police Department proposal at a meeting last week. "Ashkenazy knows we'll fight a building project there, so we're hopeful this sale will go through," he said.

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