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L.A. councilman seeks to curtail hours at City Hall park

A proposal to reduce the hours at the City Hall park and clarify rules about tents comes as some Occupy L.A. protesters say they want to hold meetings at the reopened site.

April 05, 2012|By Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • The restoration of the Los Angeles City Hall park continues. Councilman Jose Huizar has proposed limiting the park's hours once it reopens in May.
The restoration of the Los Angeles City Hall park continues. Councilman… (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)

In a move that seems designed to keep Occupy L.A.demonstrators from resuming nighttime protests at the park outside City Hall, a Los Angeles city councilman is calling for the park's hours of operation to be shortened and for rules regarding tents to be clarified.

Councilman Jose Huizar on Wednesday introduced a motion that asks the city attorney to prepare an ordinance that would "help protect and maintain" the park by limiting the hours it's open to between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. The previous hours of operation were 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The 1.7-acre park is expected to reopen in May, after city crews finish a nearly $400,000 restoration job. It has been closed since December, when police arrested hundreds of demonstrators who had been camped there as part of a national protest against income inequality and other economic and social issues.

Overnight camping is not allowed in city parks and neither are tents that have more than two sides. But protesters were initially granted an exemption to those laws by sympathetic city leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-City Council President Eric Garcetti.

Lawmakers allowed the protesters — and the hundreds of tents they erected — to stay for two months before evicting them.

In the weeks after the eviction, some protesters were arrested after they returned to the fenced-off park. Others said they looked forward to the park's reopening so they could legally hold their 7:30 p.m. General Assembly meetings there. The group currently meets four times a week in Pershing Square, a few blocks away.

Along with limiting how late people can be in the park, Huizar's proposal calls for new mechanisms to enforce park rules. It also asks the city attorney to "clarify the language and definition" as it relates to tents in the section of the city's municipal code that regulates parks.

The tent became an enduring symbol of Occupy encampments across the country, in part because of demonstrators' emphasis on fighting homelessness and foreclosures. Occupy L.A. protester Cheryl Aichele said she thinks the attempt to limit access to the park is misguided.

"It's too bad the city is wasting time talking about tents when they should be doing everything they can do to save people's homes so they don't have to live in tents," said Aichele, who is part of a group of Occupy protesters who have been working with people facing foreclosure.

She said she doesn't know whether her group plans to resume holding its meetings outside of City Hall once the park is reopened.

Huizar's proposal will be heard by the full City Council sometime next week, according to an official in the office of the city clerk.

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