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License Challenges New Tool for Activists

November 26, 1987|SHELDON ITO | Times Staff Writer

Le Dufy, a luxury hotel in a residential area of West Hollywood, has been unable to add a restaurant.

The Safeway supermarket in Beverly Hills has been ordered to clean up its trash, shield neighbors from the glare of its lights and cut the hours it sells liquor.

The Safeway in West Hollywood may have to stop selling liquor altogether as a result of neighborhood complaints.

These small victories for three Westside neighborhoods can be credited to Ira Stein, his friends and neighbors who are fighting the intrusion of businesses into residential areas using the latest in slow-growth weaponry: contesting liquor licenses.

Bargaining Tool

Stein said he and his allies are using the license approval process as a tool to bargain for concessions from businesses. As commercial developers push into residential areas and people see that blocking liquor licenses can at least slow them down, Stein said, the tactic "will become quite common on the Westside as an anti-development tool."

Stein, as president of West Hollywood's Norma Triangle Homeowners Assn., first used the tactic as part of an attempt to stop financier Severyn Ashkenazy from converting two West Hollywood apartment buildings into luxury hotels.

Last September, the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control denied Ashkenazy application for liquor licenses on the grounds that both hotel buildings are within 100 feet of residences, Stein said.

Ashkenazy has appealed the decision.

Le Dufy, at 1000 Westmount Dr., is presently operating as a hotel without the bar and restaurant Ashkenazy wanted, Stein said, adding that complaints about the business have been few. The other hotel, Le Valadon, at 900 Hammond St., is still being renovated.

Complaints About Store

A business that has been drawing many complaints, Stein said, is the West Hollywood Safeway store at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson boulevards.

He said residents have complained of noise from mechanical sweepers and diesel trucks late at night and of trash left by customers in front of homes.

His college classmate, Betty Kayton, had similar complaints about the Safeway at Olympic Boulevard and Beverly Drive near her home in Beverly Hills.

Kayton, who has since moved to Santa Monica, said numerous calls to Safeway brought few results. "They were not good neighbors," she said.

When the two Safeway stores were bought by an investment banking firm last year and their liquor licenses came up for routine review by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Stein and Kayton saw an opportunity to apply pressure.

Judge's Decision

They took their complaints before an administrative law judge who ruled that the Beverly Hills store must reduce its liquor selling hours, prohibit the drinking of alcohol on its property, change the lighting in its parking lot so that it does not bother neighbors and clean up its litter.

The judge ruled that the West Hollywood store did not properly post the transfer of its liquor license. John R. Peirce, staff counsel for the department, said that under state law, the store could lose its license.

He said the department staff believes that such a punishment would be excessive and has appealed that decision.

Stein said he thinks their license should and will be revoked. "I think the facts are for us," he said.

An attorney for Safeway did not return phone calls about the case.

Peirce said using liquor licenses as tools to fight development in not a new phenomenon, but has become increasingly common since a law was passed in 1984 requiring businesses to mail notices of the pending application to all residents within 500 feet of their buildings.

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