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OKs Reducing Required Land, Closing Loophole in Law : L.A. Council Acts to Protect Horse-Keeping Areas

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council Friday took steps to preserve the few remaining areas, mostly in the far reaches of the San Fernando Valley, where property owners can keep horses.

First, the council tentatively approved an ordinance to reduce the land required from 20 to five acres for one or more property owners to establish a horse-keeping district.

Unchanged is a requirement for property owners to obtain the approval of City Council and 75% of the residents within the proposed district to establish a district.

Second, council members voted to close a loophole in the law that could force horse owners to give up their animals if adjoining property is developed.

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In 1982, the council passed a law to prohibit home construction within 35 feet of where horses are kept. The law was in response to a county health regulation forbidding the keeping of horses within that distance of residences.

Finn Describes Intention

Councilman Howard Finn, whose East Valley district contains a large share of the city’s horse-keeping properties, said the law was intended to protect horse owners from having to give up their animals if homes were built near their property.

However, the law inadvertently left out a prohibition on construction of multiple-family housing within 35 feet of where horses are kept.

The effect of this loophole, Finn explained, is that apartments and condominiums could be built within five feet of a property line and “thus deprive the adjacent property owners of their horse-keeping rights.”

The measure approved on Friday closes the loophole by prohibiting construction of all housing within 35 feet of horse-keeping property.

City Planner David Lessley said he knew of no cases where horse owners have been forced to give up their animals because of the loophole.

Raises Equine License Fee

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In a related development, the council voted to increase the city’s equine license fee from $10 to $14 a year and to earmark the funds for maintenance of equestrian trails.

The city administrative office recommended the trail maintenance program, citing the city’s liability for city property that becomes a safety hazard.

The council also voted to permit the boarding of up to two horses for commercial purposes on large horse-keeping lots. Horse owners would continue to be restricted to keeping one horse per 4,000 square feet of property. But, until the council vote Friday, they could not board horses for compensation.

The measures brought before the council were sponsored by Finn and Councilman Hal Bernson, whose West Valley district also contains a lot of horse-keeping property.

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