Nearly 100 news racks in Glendale, including many containing the New York Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, could be confiscated next week under the city's first vigorous enforcement of a 1975 news rack ordinance that had been used primarily against sexually oriented newspapers.
The news racks along the city's main streets were tagged for various violations during sweeps May 2 and 3. City crews will seize by June 1 those racks that have not been brought into compliance by their owners, Assistant Traffic Engineer Kerry Morford said. More news racks will be cited in upcoming patrols, he said.
The recent sweeps mark the first time the city has actively enforced the 13-year-old ordinance, which was challenged in a 1986 lawsuit filed by a distributor of sexually oriented newspapers. Before the lawsuit, illegal news racks were cited mainly on a "complaint basis," Assistant City Atty. Scott Howard said.
The ordinance regulates the the number of news racks on a city block, their size, identification and certain conditions of use as outlined in the law.
Last year, city officials volunteered to suspend enforcement of the law until the lawsuit challenging a provision of the ordinance on constitutional grounds was resolved.
In that lawsuit, distributor Paul Duffy called the ordinance unconstitutional because it restricts the number of news racks in a given location based on the content of the publication. Last March, a Glendale Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the city. And now, Glendale officials say they will enforce the law.
"It's just become a problem," Morford said. "Case in point is the post office at Louise and Broadway. It becomes a clutter on the sidewalk."
At that site, 17 news racks, including four "double-slung" racks that carry two publications each, line the sidewalk along Broadway. Several blocks away, 15 more news racks line Brand Boulevard near Colorado Boulevard.
The ordinance allows eight news racks at one location. First priority is given to general circulation newspapers that are published five or more times a week. The law gives second priority to newspapers that publish two to four times a week. Third priority is given to those published once a week or less.
About 50% of the news racks were cited because they do not display proper distributor identification, Morford said. However, he was unable to provide The Times with a complete breakdown of the violations because he said some confusion remains over whether the violations were correctly identified by city workers who taped notices to the news racks.
In any case, distributors of the cited news racks had 10 days to correct the violation or to request a hearing before Glendale Director of Public Works George Miller.
The attorney for Duffy, distributor of the sexually oriented publications, requested and was granted an extension to the end of this month.
There is confusion over whether other distributors had also contacted the city. Miller and other city officials said Duffy's attorney was the only one who acknowledged the notices.
But Blake Rummel, office manager of Van Nuys-based News Express distributors, said she filed an appeal with the city a day before the end of the 10-day deadline. City officials, she said, have been "very cooperative."
The company distributes the New York Times, USA Today, the Christian Science Monitor, Investor's Daily and Community Rentals. About 55 of their news racks have been tagged, Rummel said.
"I found out by default," she said. "I found out when our collector found out."
Rummel said most of the news racks were tagged for lack of distributor identification. Since then, proper identification labels have been affixed to them, she said.