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Official Cites Traffic, Effect on Neighborhood : Club Planned Near CSUN Fails to Win Permit

June 27, 1989|JAMES QUINN | Times Staff Writer

An application for a youth dance club near Cal State Northridge was turned down by a zoning officer Monday after the proposal ran into a barrage of criticism from university officials, police and neighbors.

Mark A. Steele, a 25-year-old concert promoter who had filed the application, said he probably would appeal the ruling but admitted that he "didn't expect this much opposition."

Steele is proposing a dance club to be called Whiplash, which would accommodate up to 550 patrons age 18 and older, in the former Bullwinkle's restaurant on Reseda Boulevard, one block west of the campus.

He said that only those who are 21 and older would be given wristbands permitting them to buy alcoholic drinks and that 10 off-duty police officers would patrol inside the club to make certain that 18- to 20-year-olds did not obtain liquor through friends who were of legal age.

Neighborhood Cited

Jack C. Sedwick, a Los Angeles city associate zoning administrator, rejected Steele's request for a conditional-use permit to open the club, saying that it would be "detrimental to the neighborhood" and that patrons would "interfere with traffic circulation."

Diana R. Gruendler, university housing services director, said that the club would encourage excessive drinking by students and that after its 2 a.m. closing, non-students would drift onto campus because "many young people have the mistaken notion that universities are a place where there are 24-hour parties."

She also said the club would harm the university's reputation in the community because people would associate it with trouble caused by patrons, regardless of whether the disturbances were caused by students.

The application also was opposed by Los Angeles Police Sgt. Frank Reynoso, who heads the Devonshire Division vice unit.

Other clubs open to 18-year-olds "never succeed in keeping liquor from the underage group," he said. "In the dark, there is nothing to stop them from sipping someone else's drink."

Reynoso also said other youth dance clubs are magnets for gangs, "which mix with one another, resulting in troubles in the parking lot, problems in the neighborhood."

Reynoso said that in the last 30 months, there have been 25 accidents on Reseda Boulevard in front of the proposed club and that the club would aggravate the situation.

Anita Aragon, one of several longtime area residents who argued against the application, said it would harm "what has been a quiet university neighborhood."

But another said residents "already go through hell" because of disturbances in parking lots of restaurants in the area.

Steele countered that clubs patronized by gangs "project a kind of image and play a certain kind of music to attract gang members. That is not the kind of club I want to operate."

He also argued that he "should be given an opportunity to open up, to show what kind of operation I will run."

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