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WESTSIDE WATCH

Picnic Offers Fertile Field for Stinky Stunt

September 12, 1993

Politics stinks: The Santa Monica Democratic Club's annual Labor Day picnic had an aroma all its own this year.

The smell came from a load of manure that was spread at the picnic site in Clover Park in the dead of night. A renegade group that calls itself PLOP has claimed credit, or blame, for the stinky stuff.

In a fax to The Times, the PLOP crew (the acronym stands for People Liberating Our Parks) said they dumped the manure to protest the club's support of the city's homeless policies.

"Since the free-for-all homeless policies espoused by the Santa Monica Democratic Club have attracted thousands of transients to live in our parks and other areas that can't handle this type of use, many locales in Santa Monica now smell like manure," said the statement, quoting--catch this name--PLOP President O. Howie Schmel.

This is the second year the club's foes have pulled a stunt on the day of the picnic. Last year, flyers promising free food and bus money were passed out to homeless people who showed up expectantly, but found that watermelon was the only refreshment available. Club newsletter editor Herman Rosenstein was one of the first to show up at the picnic site this year. So, Rosenstein said, it fell to him and another guy to shovel away two barrels of the stinky stuff before the other picnickers arrived. The picnic then went on without a hitch.

Rosenstein dismissed the pranksters as "faceless, adult delinquents."

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Would it have valet parking? A nice, cluttered farmers market ought to fit right in with the elegant stores, mansions and manicured lawns in Beverly Hills, right?

Tom Levyn, the newest city councilman, thinks so, and he is trying to generate enthusiasm for establishing a weekly outdoor market in the gilded enclave.

Wouldn't carts overflowing with fresh greens, flowers, onions and melons be a bit incongruous along, say, Rodeo Drive? Levyn was asked.

"You haven't seen our (idea of a) farmers market--strawberries $3 apiece," he joked in reply.

Levyn said last week he got the idea from visiting his sister, who lives in Blackhawk, an upscale community in Contra Costa County that has "a lovely farmers market on Sundays."

A weekly market in Beverly Hills would "bring the community together and provide an enjoyable morning or afternoon market," he said.

Trying not to sound like a spoilsport, Deputy City Manager Peggy Curran told the City Council that a farmers market adds color, life and activity to a city, but a successful one is labor-intensive and requires at least a full city block of space for farmers' trucks and produce.

Curran should know. Before moving over to her Beverly Hills post, Curran worked for the city of Santa Monica, home of the Wednesday market on Arizona Avenue and two others. Although Beverly Hills' market wouldn't have to be as large, she said, Santa Monica had the equivalent of two full-time staffers overseeing the markets when she was there. (Four part-timers coordinate the markets now.)

Undeterred, Levyn told his colleagues that he'd still like to try to find a site for a market. If he's successful, the boast of the Beverly Hills Courier newspaper as "The Farmers' Choice" may turn out to be more than a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the city's agrarian past.

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And the meter is running: When Robert (Pete) Moffett opened a restaurant in 1989 near the Beverly Center, the city assessed him $89,000 under a law designed to ease traffic congestion in the area. Called the Wilshire West Interim Control Ordinance, the law is intended to have new businesses pay for the city's cost of managing the increased traffic the businesses generate.

Today, Moffett, president of Manhattan Coolers restaurants, would like to get his money back--or at least borrow it back for a while. He notes that the city Department of Transportation has not finished studying how to control area traffic, and thus has not yet decided how to spend the money he paid years ago.

Meanwhile, the local economy has gone south, and Moffett is feeling pinched. Two of the four restaurants in his chain have closed, he said, and the one near the Beverly Center is struggling to survive.

"That money right now is the difference between life and death for my company," Moffett said.

Moffett said transportation staff have told him that when their study is completed, probably in a few months, they probably won't need all of Moffett's $89,000--about half will do.

Although they are sympathetic to the restaurateur, transportation officials have informed him that the ordinance that created the fund (which stands at $787,301) "doesn't allow the department to disburse these monies." According to transportation engineer Chuck King, the department can't issue refunds without authorization from the City Council.

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