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San Gabriel Valley Digest

Sierra Madre : Open Meeting Law Ruling

March 11, 1993

City Atty. Charles Martin said Tuesday that the City Council did not violate the state's open meeting law when the council visited a home under construction and the owner denied access to members of the public who were not willing to sign a liability waiver and did not wear a hard hat.

"If we meet someplace that hard hats are required by the property owner and the property owner excludes those members of the public without hats, there has been no violation of the Brown Act in my view," Martin said.

The entire council adjourned its meeting to the site at 509 Acacia St. Feb. 14 to examine whether a single-family home's frame violated the city's height limit after neighbors complained, City Administrator James McRea said.

An attorney representing William Garr Sr., a nearby resident, wrote the City Council complaining that members of the public were turned away from the site.

The Brown Act, the state's opening meeting law, says a majority of council members constitutes a meeting and the public should be allowed to attend.

"It was the property owner, not the council, that required hard hats and asked for waiver signatures," McRea said. He said the council did not make any decisions at the construction site.

The council voted unanimously at its Feb. 23 meeting to reverse a stop-work order on the site, overturning a Planning Commission decision against further construction.

The dispute over the height of the building arose because neighbors said a level labeled as a basement by owner Viken Mankerian was above ground. Mankerian contended that a portion of the house is below ground and meets the state definition of a basement.

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