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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS | WEST COUNTY / VENTURA

Police Criticized Over Signs Aimed at Bikers

March 25, 1998|SCOTT HADLY and PAMELA J. JOHNSON

Ventura police should have talked to merchants before plastering the downtown area with "No Motorcycle Parking" signs in preparation for a Hells Angels visit, city officials said Tuesday.

The admission was made Monday in response to complaints by members of the Downtown Community Council.

More than 500 Hells Angels were greeted by the signs when they converged on the city last week as part of a three-day 50th anniversary celebration.

At the meeting Monday, Police Chief Richard Thomas apologized for not consulting with the Community Council before taking steps to regulate parking.

"We honestly didn't think this was going to be a problem," Thomas said Tuesday. "If we had thought beforehand to consult with the Downtown Community Council, I think we would have saved a significant amount of brouhaha on this. . . . In retrospect, we should have talked to them about it."

Estimates on how much the signs cost had been wildly exaggerated, Thomas said, adding that the total cost of the work to put the signs up and take them down was about $1,400.

During the hourlong Monday meeting--which included City Manager Donna Landeros, council members Sandy Smith and Brian Brennan and members of the Community Council--discussion topics included the massive police presence downtown during the Hells Angels gathering.

Thomas described Monday's meeting as pleasant.

During a second meeting Tuesday night, about 30 merchants and residents met at Franky's restaurant on Main Street to air their grievances on the beefed-up patrols and signs.

Many participants said they were satisfied with Thomas' apology.

"We feel that the issue has been addressed," said Mike Osborn, who spoke on behalf of Abate of California, a statewide advocacy group for motorcycle enthusiasts based in Ventura. "It's safe to say we won't see a repeat of what happened."

But some called for a public statement by city officials.

Lori Anderson said she and her husband, Lawrence, will not rescind their request that the sign they painted and donated to the downtown police storefront be returned to them.

"It was a protest and we want to stand by it," Anderson said.

"We still feel that there was too much police presence and it was too aggressive."

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