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County to Start Enforcing a Big No-Parking Zone: Yards

Laws: In effort to eliminate eyesores in unincorporated areas, those with vehicles on lawns face $55 tickets beginning Oct. 1.

September 13, 1997|ERIC SLATER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just north of the Santa Clarita city limits, up a dusty, rutted road, a man named Jack lives with a tiny pug, a lovely garden of prickly pear, and the rusting hull of a pickup truck he says was driven by Clint Eastwood in the orangutan-buddy classic "Every Which Way but Loose."

No one has complained that the pickup--from which Clyde the orangutan was frequently socking some ne'er-do-well motorcyclist in the 1978 movie--is an eyesore. Most of Jack's neighbors have an old Ford van or Mercury Cougar soaking up the sun in the frontyard as well.

Beginning Oct. 1, however, Jack Moore, his neighbors and probably tens of thousands of other residents in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County risk punishment as lawbreakers. They could wake up one day to find a $55 ticket tucked beneath the rubber-less windshield wiper of their frontyard handicraft project.

That's the day the county supervisors have decreed that authorities will begin to enforce an ordinance making it illegal to park vehicles on the front lawn, the latest attempt to throttle what proponents would call an ancient American liberty and what opponents excoriate as the classic American eyesore and neighborhood blight.

"The purpose of the ordinance is to enhance the appearance of the community, and [it] is the result of suggestions from the community," says a letter from Sheriff Sherman Block to the county Board of Supervisors, which unanimously passed the ordinance in July.

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"Well, if I lived in the city I'd probably be of a like mind about it," said Moore, a retired carpenter for the city of Los Angeles who moved out to the hinterlands from Redondo Beach 25 years ago for a little peace and quiet. "But I'm also of the school that says if you're not bothering your neighbors, let people be."

In Southern California, few things upset us more than threats to our property values. And old, unattractive cars on cement blocks rank right up there with graffiti.

Now, new cars, shiny cars, cars that cost more than the president of the United States makes in a year--those kinds of cars we love. Aging cars, rusting cars, the kind teenagers in the far reaches of the county tinker with for years and then abandon without a pang when they move away--those kinds of cars we hate.

Since 1991, the county has had a zoning ordinance that prohibits parking cars in frontyards. But enforcing a zoning violation requires hearings, witnesses and considerable, costly paperwork. Writing tickets, the thinking goes, will be much more efficient.

In a gesture of goodwill, county parking officers haven't written a single one yet. Although the regulation went into effect in August, officers have issued more than 1,000 warnings but promised not to slap anyone with the fine until Oct. 1--and perhaps they'll even extend the grace period beyond then.

"We're trying to be fair and equitable on this ordinance because it is new," said Cristina Economides, acting manager of the Sheriff's Department's parking enforcement detail. "We're not going to go gung-ho on it right away."

Good thing, because there will likely be some technicalities to iron out. And a whole lot of tickets to write.

Down the road from Moore's home, a broken-down brown Pinto sits in front of a trailer, engine parts resting on its hood. But the Pinto is overshadowed by a much larger vehicle: an old fishing trawler propped up on blocks.

"The Pinto's mine, but I'm moving to Kentucky," a woman said from inside the trailer. The boat, she said, belongs to her landlord.

As far as this ordinance goes, though, the boat is off the hook, said Sharon Bilbrey, assistant manager of the parking enforcement detail. "It only applies to autos."

"What about go-carts?" asked another woman who lives just over the hill from the boat. "And I have my tractor. . . ."

An even more vexing question might be determining the parameters of a "frontyard, corner side yard or any additional area of a lot or parcel of land situated between the public right of way and any residence or accessory building or structure located therein," as the ordinance puts it.

In this case, the woman wasn't quite sure exactly which yard was which. And she's lived there for years.

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