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Manhattan Beach Volleyball Tourney May Go Another Round

Courts: Judge lifts injunction after opponents fail to produce a $50,000 bond. But the event would now be free to the public if held on the sand, so sponsors may go elsewhere.

May 28, 1997|DEBORAH BELGUM | SPECIAL TO THE TIME

The back-and-forth legal tussle over whether the venerable Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament will be held on the beach next month has become as exciting as a hotly contested match.

After the latest legal round Tuesday, the tourney may be back on again, next to the Manhattan Beach Pier as planned.

The only difference is that the mid-June event would be totally free--if held there.

The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals, which sponsors the popular seaside tournament, had initially planned to sell tickets for the last two days of the event.

But a ruling by the California Coastal Commission earlier this month stated that sponsors could not sell tickets to an event held on a public beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The only exception might be a charity event.

Early Tuesday afternoon, organizers said they intended to keep up a 37-year tradition and hold the tournament on the sandy seashore in this upscale beach community.

"We will be going to Manhattan Beach," said Lon Monk, chief operating officer of the volleyball association. "We have decided that for one year we are not going to abandon the tradition of the Manhattan Beach Open."

But later in the day, they retrenched and said they were still considering their options, including holding the tournament off the beach and charging admission.

The indecision came after the latest court hearing involving a local grass-roots group called the South Bay Coastal Alliance and its organizer, Donley Falkenstien, who are trying to stop the event by seeking a preliminary injunction. A temporary restraining order granted to the group last week would have prohibited the tournament from being held on the beach because city officials allegedly did not adequately consider the environmental impact of the event.

However, Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien stipulated that the alliance had to come up with a $50,000 bond by 4 p.m. Tuesday to cover losses the tournament organizers could incur while the case was being reviewed.

Alliance attorneys asked the judge Tuesday morning to reduce the bond or extend the deadline. But O'Brien denied both requests.

The alliance failed to come up with the $50,000 by Tuesday afternoon, the group's attorney, Frank Angel, said. However, the group still plans to try to raise the money and return to court this week to ask the judge to reissue the temporary restraining order, Angel said. A June 5 hearing is scheduled on the preliminary injunction request.

Considering that the judge would not extend the bond deadline Tuesday, it is unlikely that he would reissue the restraining order, said Jim Evans, an attorney for the volleyball association.

"I think it would be very unlikely he would grant a renewal of the application," Evans said. Evans said he believes the judge realized that the association needs some time to organize the event, which is scheduled for June 12-15.

In the past, Falkenstien, a technical writer who lives in nearby Hermosa Beach, has protested that the event attracts too many people, is too noisy and restricts access to the beach. "In my personal opinion, I think they have gotten too big," he said.

The Manhattan Beach tournament was started in 1960 as a low-key event that was free to spectators. Beginning in 1993, with Coastal Commission approval, 25% of the roughly 5,000 seats went up for sale.

This year, organizers wanted to sell tickets for all seats for the last two days of the event. Ticket prices would have ranged from $10 to $35, and would have amounted to $90,000 for the association, according to Monk. But the Coastal Commission nixed that idea when it voted 10-1 to forbid ticket sales.

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