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'Head Shop' Ban Near Schools Weighed

June 10, 2002|SEEMA MEHTA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city of Los Angeles will move forward this week on a proposal to ban "head shops" near schools.

The city attorney's office and the planning department are expected to present a proposed ordinance to restrict such drug paraphernalia businesses within 500 feet of schools to a City Council committee Tuesday.

Council members also have suggested broadening the rule by applying it to "community facilities" such as parks and recreation centers.

Parents and school officials welcomed the move to restrict stores that sell pipes for smoking marijuana and provocative posters and T-shirts.

"This is in kids' faces. It's promoting drugs to the kids," said Heather Evans, a parent liaison with Fairfax High School.

The move to ban such stores near schools was prompted by the opening of Melrose Smoke Shop across the street from Fairfax High's main entrance in March.

"I was shocked when I learned someone would have the audacity to open a head shop across the street from a school, and then I was doubly shocked when I learned that this was legal," said Councilman Jack Weiss, who represents the area and whose motion led to the drafting of the ordinance.

"We're going to plug this loophole."

Students from the 2,600-pupil school brought the matter to Weiss' attention. They have picketed the store and signed petitions against it.

People under 18 are not allowed in the store, but Evans said there are many high school seniors over 18 who might be willing to buy its wares for younger teenagers.

"They have from the tiniest pipes to the largest bongs basically to smoke drugs," Evans said. "They also have T-shirts promoting drug smoking and sex and decals with ... sleazy sex slogans."

Weiss added: "The issue here isn't should you be allowed to sell those items to consenting adults. The issue is why on earth should you be allowed to dangle this temptation right smack in front of a school?"

Tigran Nersesyan, owner of the store, said, "My shop is legal," and declined further comment.

Indeed, the store would remain legal once the new rules are in place because the ban would apply only to new stores.

So the council, along with the West Hollywood City Council and the Los Angeles Unified School District, are urging property owner Ray Golbari to evict Nersesyan.

But Golbari said Friday that Nersesyan cannot be evicted because he has a five-year lease.

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday in Room 1010 of Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring St.

Weiss hopes the ordinance will be approved by the end of June.

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