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SOUTH LOS ANGELES : Community Can Join Liquor Lawsuit


Opponents of rebuilding liquor outlets scored a victory last week in winning the right to have the community's views represented in a lawsuit filed against the city by the owners of three liquor stores destroyed in last year's riots.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien granted three South-Central residents and members of the Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse permission to intervene in the lawsuit, entitling them to all information related to the action.

The judge's decision also means residents and the coalition would be considered as a second defendant in the case, along with the city.

Comments and testimony by the residents and officials of the coalition would also be considered when a decision on the lawsuit is made.

"The city and owners should not go forward without the community sitting at the table, also," said Karen Bass, executive director of the community coalition. "We're not comfortable with just the city representing our interests." City Atty. James K. Hahn's office opposed the intervention, saying that the office could have properly represented the community.

The lawsuit was filed last month by Soo Chun Cha, David Kim, Daniel Whang and the nonprofit Korean-American Legal Advocacy Foundation to stop the city from requiring zoning variances and conditional-use permits before liquor stores can be rebuilt.

The lawsuit also called for eliminating public hearings in connection to rebuilding liquor stores, which prompted the coalition's application for intervention. The city requires public hearings on all requests to rebuild liquor stores, pawn and gun shops and swap meets.

Two of the merchants who applied for rebuilding permits were allowed to rebuild if they agreed to several regulations including closing at 9 p.m. instead of 1 or 2 a.m., hiring a security guard during operating hours and not selling single cans of beer.

Hyong Sik Koh of the Korean-American Legal Advocacy Foundation said those three conditions were unconstitutional and make it difficult for the merchants to reopen. "This stops short of being a witch hunt on these merchants," Koh said. "The conditions being applied to The Boys market are being imposed on us, which makes no sense. The city ought to do more to protect these merchants."

Koh added that if all existing liquor stores were made to comply with those conditions it would be fair, but merchants trying to reopen should not be singled out.

All three liquor stores were in areas that were rezoned five years ago for non-commercial use. Two of the stores are at East 22nd and Juliett streets, and the third is at 89th and San Pedro streets.

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