It's not yet on any maps of places to visit in Los Angeles, but "Justice by the Sea," as court administrator Christopher Crawford calls his planned courtroom, is going to have thousands of visitors in the months ahead.
The South Bay Municipal Court in Torrance has plans to open up a seaside branch, which Crawford said "will possibly take away a little of the pain of the stress" for traffic violators and those embroiled in small claims cases.
The new courtroom will be plopped down in the middle of the Redondo Beach Pier Plaza complex (formerly Seaport Village), which features restaurants, curio shops and an assortment of small business and professional offices. The 4,000-square-foot structure being leased by the county for $60,000, Crawford explained, "is definitely upscale, very nicely decorated with a distinctive spire, graced with a skylight . . . and the skylight opens right into the middle of the courtroom."
The South Bay court handles 90,000 traffic ticket cases each year, and 70,000 small claims cases from seven courtrooms now housed in Torrance. The additional courtroom at the pier site five miles away will have the advantage of being at a landmark that area residents can find easily. "And it has a resort atmosphere," Crawford noted. "If nothing else, people can stroll on the pier afterward if they lose a case and feel better about it."
In news of other unusual places of business, the county Sheriff's Department has set up shop in the Los Cerritos Center shopping mall to sell crime prevention and the department.
Deputies manning the storefront office in Cerritos, which opened this week and operates from noon to 8 p.m. daily, will hold crime-fighting seminars for merchants.
A Business Watch program, much like the popular Neighborhood Watch programs throughout the county, will be headquartered there. The office will also act as a recruitment center for the department, which has 6,500 employees and is looking for an additional 700. "It's a refreshing concept and good public relations," Deputy Fidel Gonzales said.
If the trend continues, these stations could become as trendy as muffin shops in malls. A similar sheriff's center in the Carson Mall has proven successful, and Torrance police just opened one in the huge Del Amo Fashion Center.
The partridge in a pear tree turned out to be a camel in a fig tree when Annette, a 6,500-pound Asian elephant, carefully placed cardboard animal cutouts on one of the Los Angeles Zoo's Christmas trees.
The elephant was aided by 'Zoodolph'--really zoo keeper George French in reindeer costume--perched on his back. The decorations will be part of the zoo's Winter Wildland exhibit Dec. 26 through Jan. 3, which will feature live reindeer, children's craft classes, a bird show, magical comedy, puppet revue and the usual zoo attractions.
Decking the halls with boughs of holly might have been a better alternative for two area men cited recently for cutting Christmas trees in the Angeles National Forest. One of the men was stopped by sheriff's deputies with a 13-foot tree tied atop his car, said George Roby, a Forest Service supervisor. The other was cited for allegedly chopping down a 20-foot cedar. Witnesses told rangers that the man had cut the top off to use as the yule tree and was going to use the leftover for firewood.
Maximum penalty for cutting a single tree is $500 and possible imprisonment. If the value of the tree is more than $100 or more than one tree is taken, offenders can be given jail time and fined up to $1,000. Roby suggests those wanting to recreate an old-fashioned Christmas contact the Lafayette-based California Christmas Tree Growers for "choose-and-cut" farms in the area.