A homeowner-endorsed ban on adult bookstores in Westwood Village is not necessary, the Los Angeles city attorney's office says.
Anthony S. Alperin, assistant city attorney, wrote in a March 28 letter to the city Planning Commission that officials have not given adequate reasons, or findings, for justifying the ban, contained in proposed amendments to the Westwood Village Specific Plan. That plan seeks to replace many of Westwood's fast-food restaurants and novelty stores with neighborhood businesses such as hardware stores and pharmacies.
The plan would also cut allowable building heights and densities, impose design standards on new buildings and preserve existing buildings that are architecturally or historically significant.
Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, a homeowners group, said allowing adult book stores in the village undermines the intent of the plan: to make Westwood a nicer place to live or visit.
"The Friends of Westwood is shocked," she said. "We wanted protection. We know the problems that have been caused in the past by these uses, and we don't want them again. We would urge the city attorney's office, when in doubt, to give the benefit to the community."
Lake and city officials said they know of no adult bookstores or other exclusively adult-oriented businesses operating in Westwood. Most such businesses in the city are in Hollywood, North Hollywood and Studio City, according to officials.
Lake said she plans to protest the city attorney's recommendation when the plan comes before the Planning Commission, probably on June 2.
The Westwood Village Specific Plan would prohibit "adult book stores, adult motels and adult motion picture theaters as well as other adult entertainment businesses and activities."
The plan must be approved by the City Council before it becomes law. It will supplement the Westwood Community Plan, a 1972 ordinance governing future development in Westwood that the City Council amended last January to provide significantly tighter limits on growth. The amended community plan, which was prompted by a surge in growth in the area, cuts allowable future development by 50%.
Assistant City Atty. Alperin said the city Planning Department, which drew up the plan, did not provide a good justification for adding an outright ban for Westwood to an existing citywide ordinance regulating the location and number of adult-oriented businesses.
"The findings which the staff has asked the commission to adopt do not support the legality of the proposed prohibition," he said. "We didn't see any basis in the findings suggesting that that prohibition was necessary and that the citywide regulations of those (adult-oriented) uses couldn't sufficiently take care of the problem."
The city's Adult Entertainment Ordinance, adopted in 1978 and subsequently amended four times, prohibits adult businesses within 1,000 feet of one another and within 500 feet of schools, religious institutions and public parks. It also bans the businesses within 500 feet of residentially zoned neighborhoods and near certain commercial zones.
A deputy city attorney who has defended the city against businesses opposing the adult entertainment ordinance said the city "frowns upon" attempts to ban adult businesses outright. He said the city has taken its cue from recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions which attempt to balance the safety and health concerns of communities with the First Amendment rights of the adult entertainment industry.
"The city attorney's office has basically taken a very conservative approach on these issues," the attorney, who asked not to be identified, said. "Our effort is to make sure all businesses are treated alike. We are very careful not to infringe on their First Amendment rights."