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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Council Reviews Law to Let Flags Fly

October 19, 2000|ANA BEATRIZ CHOLO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Every summer for 18 years, Kelly Khoury has expressed his gratitude to his adopted country by flying more than 20 American flags at his Glendale gas station.

That got him into trouble with City Hall this year. Glendale officials, citing an ordinance that limits public flag displays, ticketed him in July for showing too many Stars and Stripes.

It wasn't until this week that Khoury's patriotism won the council over.

Council members, expressing sympathy for the Jordanian immigrant, voted Tuesday night to clarify the ordinance in Khoury's favor.

"It's a big hump off of my back. It's a great relief," said Khoury, who wore an American flag tie to the meeting.

The ordinance, passed in the 1970s, was an attempt to regulate advertising and maintain community aesthetics by limiting the way businesses used banners and flags. The law did not contain a numerical limit, so city staff members began interpreting it as meaning that more than three flags at a business constituted advertising.

Into this void fell Khoury's Shell Station at Pacific Avenue and the Ventura Freeway.

Khoury opened it in 1982, seven years after fleeing Jordan. A Catholic, he said he felt persecuted as a religious minority and was about to be drafted into the Jordanian army.

He subsequently opened other gas stations in Burbank, Northridge, Granada Hills and Sun Valley. They, like the Glendale station, have flown flags each year from the Fourth of July to Labor Day.

As word spread about his defiance of City Hall, Khoury received more than 200 letters from supporters, was interviewed on local and national radio talk shows, and was featured on the Comedy Channel.

On Tuesday night, while taking no official action, several council members told their staff that the height and size of the flags, not necessarily their number, should be the standard for enforcement.

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