In a move that could save the San Fernando Valley's top rock music hall from closing, city officials said Wednesday that they are willing to referee peace talks between the Country Club and neighboring homeowners and merchants.
Opponents of the 10-year-old Reseda rock club have charged that noisy concert-goers disturb a nearby neighborhood and that club workers disrupt an adjoining shopping center.
A Los Angeles city zoning administrator reacted to the complaints last week by unexpectedly stripping the 982-seat club of permits it needs for concerts, boxing matches and other events.
That action, which occurred during a routine permit extension hearing, shocked club operators and opponents alike.
On Wednesday, representatives of both sides said they are prepared to try to negotiate a compromise that will keep the club open and protect neighbors. If an agreement is reached, the two sides would ask that the permits for the club be renewed.
Aides to City Councilwoman Joy Picus said they will conduct a showdown meeting between the two sides if one can be organized before a final shutdown order for the club takes effect. However, the club can continue operating until appeals before the Board of Zoning Appeals have been exhausted.
"If they want to be agreeable to some stricter conditions agreeable to the neighborhood, we'd be happy to mediate," Jim Dawson, chief land-use aide to Picus, said of the club. "The ball's in the Country Club's court."
Club manager Scott Hurowitz said owners are anxious to discuss neighborhood problems and take steps to rectify them.
"Had we known there was this much of a problem, we could have done things I see need to be done now," Hurowitz said.
Reseda residents said Wednesday that they are likewise willing to talk.
Willing to Negotiate
"I'd hate to see the club shut down," said Todd Zervas, who was among the homeowners who testified against the club last week. "I wish we could get after the patrons causing the problem, not the club itself."
Neighbor Lynne Verity said she also is willing to negotiate, although she said residents would demand major improvements in crowd control to protect single-family homes north of the Sherman Way club's parking lot.
Homeowners charged last week that club patrons litter the neighborhood with beer cans and sometimes urinate and have sex in their front yards. They told James Crisp, an associate zoning administrator for the city, that young concert-goers also yell and play loud music on car stereos.
Dawson said Picus will demand that tough new conditions be imposed on the club if conditional-use permits allowing dancing and on-site consumption of alcoholic beverages are to be renewed. He said Picus would support only a short-term extension to test the effectiveness of the new conditions this summer.
Those new rules might include club-provided security guards and cleanups of the neighborhood; new restroom facilities for concert-goers outside the club; a city-monitored, 24-hour club complaint hot line for residents; a club-paid towing service for illegally parked cars outside homes, and a possible ban on daytime events that clog the parking areas of shops, according to Dawson.
Hurowitz said club operators are willing to discuss all proposals. He said the club also has some ideas of its own--including asking the city for nighttime parking restrictions for nearby streets and more frequent police patrols of the area.
According to Hurowitz, the club is prepared to rally its patrons, if necessary, to support its appeal at the zoning board hearing. It also is considering a lawsuit if the appeal fails.
Homeowners said refereeing by Picus' office may be a necessity. They said a meeting called by the club to discuss complaints before last week's hearing dissolved into a shouting match between the two sides.
"I think they've awakened now and realize they have a problem," said Zervas.
Verity was more skeptical. "I don't trust the Country Club. I'll go to a meeting with them, but I don't expect much from it," she said.