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Los Angeles | INDEPENDENCE DAY

It's a Banner Day for Flag Lover

Glendale: Kelly Khoury declared independence by fighting off limits on his displays of Old Glory.

July 04, 2001|DAVID PIERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kelly Khoury's day has come.

Eight months ago, the patriotic businessman was battling a Glendale ordinance that limited the number of American flags he could display at his gas station. He won.

The city hadn't seen anything yet.

Khoury is now flying 30 American flags instead of the usual 10.

"The Fourth of July is my Christmas Day," said Khoury, a Jordanian American who fled his homeland because of what he described as persecution of Christians. "Instead of putting up Christmas decorations, I put up flags."

His Shell station on Pacific Avenue at the Ventura Freeway is covered in patriotic paraphernalia. Flags sprout from patches of grass like flimsy trees. They hang from lampposts and stick out of ash bins.

Poles, potted plants and pillars are draped in red, white and blue plastic wrapping. Taped to the glass windows and door of the kiosk are cardboard cutouts of the Liberty Bell, the U.S. Capitol and the Declaration of Independence.

"I like it; it's real subtle," Anthony Canales said facetiously to Khoury with a toothy grin as he walked into the station.

Canales, a 43-year-old Granada Hills resident, is one of several regulars who know Khoury on a first-name basis.

"I love the flags," Canales said. "It's freedom of speech."

And that's exactly what Khoury said the city violated when it ticketed him last July for displaying too many flags. The ordinance was passed in the 1970s to control advertising by limiting the public display of flags and banners.

Khoury had flown flags at the station for 18 years before the ticket. He hired a lawyer and met with City Council members and the Planning Commission.

Last October, the Glendale City Council gave up, dropping restrictions on the size and number of flags on display. The only curb remaining is a limit on the height of flagpoles, said Glendale Mayor Gus Gomez.

The old ordinance was "like telling someone how much they can and cannot speak," Gomez said. "I'm glad somebody went to City Hall and said this doesn't make any sense."

The attention helped business, Khoury said. He received 300 letters in support. He made appearances on radio and television, including the Comedy Channel.

But like most flag wavers, the 41-year-old father of four said it was idealism, not profit, that compelled him to fly the Stars and Stripes.

"People take this country for granted," he said. "Everything is handed to them on a silver platter. People who come from different countries know the meaning of freedom here."

Victor Dabbah of Glendale, a veteran of the Korean War, said he was proud to patronize Khoury's gas station.

"Is there anything better than the American flag?" he asked.

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