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Secession Theme Striking No Chords

Cityhood: Those on both sides of debate pitch to a populace that's not interested.

September 23, 2002|NITA LELYVELD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the Hollywood Farmers Market on Sunday, the choice of information about Hollywood secession was nearly as plentiful and varied as the choice of heirloom tomatoes--green ones and pink ones and gnarled ones bigger than a boxer's fist.

Paul Perner, a North Hollywood resident, walked up and down past the produce stalls, holding a homemade sign that read "No Secession" on one side, and "Hollywood/Valley Secession Is Smug, Vain and Selfish" on the other.

He brought with him copies of his Valley anti-secession manifesto, which proclaims, "We will not retreat behind the hills."

At the market's information booth, Neal Jano, a longtime market volunteer who is running for a Hollywood city council seat that will exist only if Hollywood secession is successful, put a stack of pro-secession materials out on a table crowded with recipes and food safety tips.

His partially handwritten, photocopied campaign material included a letter he had written to a neighborhood paper about broken parking meters that the city doesn't fix and abandoned furniture that sits on the sidewalk.

An independent Hollywood city would stretch over 15 square miles. It would have a population of about 183,000 and a part-time city council with five at-large members.

Hollywood secessionists argue that Los Angeles is too big and that an independent Hollywood could be spiffier and safer, like neighboring West Hollywood.

Anti-secessionists say a breakaway Hollywood would lose access to a vast array of Los Angeles programs and might wind up having to cut services that the area--with its many needy residents--could ill afford to lose.

With only about five weeks to go before Nov. 5, when Los Angeles voters will decide whether to let the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secede, secessionists and anti-secessionists are trying hard to get the attention of voters, many of whom--at least at the market--seemed distinctly disinclined to hear them out.

At the booth set up by the Hollywood secession campaign, 31-year-old Tad Davis, a film director and a Hollywood city council candidate, reached out a hand to just about every person who walked by him. But Davis, who was dressed for business in a white button-down shirt, a red tie and beige trousers, said the market crowd was tougher than at Runyon Canyon, a nearby hiking area where secessionists set out water and dog biscuits to lure the many dogs and lemonade and Oreo cookies to win over the dogs' owners.

"Hi Ma'am! Do you live in Los Angeles?" Davis said to a young woman in a midriff-baring tank top, who walked languidly past him, clutching a fat bouquet of sunflowers wrapped in newspaper.

"Yeah," she said, without raising her eyes to look at him or stopping.

Still, Davis said, when people do stop and talk, "they see the logic."

Half a dozen stalls away, sitting under an umbrella at the table of the anti-secession group Hollywood and Los Angeles as One, HALO co-chairman Andrew Glazier was also having trouble getting people to hear his pitch. Granted, he said, it was Sunday morning. A lot of people were not in the mood for politics. Granted, too, there was so much else to focus on, from the pupusa and paella stands to the beat of the steel drum two booths down.

"But one of the things that sort of astounds me is all the people who just don't care, and then there's a lot of people who don't even know what's going on," he said. "Anyway, a lot of people who walk by, they'll just give a thumbs up and keep walking. I feel like most people are with us."

Around the corner from the HALO booth, past the fish truck and a grape stall, Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, whose district includes part of Hollywood, was holding his biweekly office hours, talking to residents about their problems.

An hour or so into his session, he'd heard from people who wanted more preferential parking and others who wanted to make sure kids ate enough fruits and vegetables. He'd tried to diplomatically wade his way through a discussion with another Hollywood resident who started out talking about an unkempt median and a beehive near his home and ended up decrying the number of shop signs in foreign languages he saw around the city.

Secession hadn't even come up once, Garcetti said.

"In the heart of Hollywood, I find very few people begging to talk about secession," said Garcetti, who opposes it.

"When people come to see me, 90% of the time, it's about bread and butter issues. They want their streets fixed. They don't even care who does it."

At the market, some residents said they did indeed care about secession, but were finding it difficult to ferret out facts.

Perre DiCarlo, 31, who designs Web sites for feature films and lives in a Hollywood apartment, said he visited the anti-secession booth, where he was told that secession could mean the end of rent control. That was news to him, he said, and it made him nervous. Then he stopped at the pro-secession booth, where he was told that rent control, far from being threatened, might be strengthened in an independent Hollywood.

When Davis and other secessionists told him that rent control would be safe and to trust them, DiCarlo, dressed all in black, stared at them skeptically and replied, "I'm not sure I'd even trust myself if I was running for office."

"I definitely feel like I'm going to need more information," DiCarlo said.

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