The Hillcrest Country Club, considered the leading predominantly Jewish country club in Los Angeles, has changed its bylaws and is in the process of admitting its first regular women members, its president said Monday.
Club President Mark B. Levey said that while Hillcrest has had some women as associate members for about 15 years, it has never enrolled a woman as one of its 585 regular members. A regular membership costs about $50,000, he said.
He said that according to the bylaw change, members may now bequeath memberships to daughters rather than only to sons.
"In the past, if a husband passed away, it went to a son, or the membership was sold," Levey said. "Now, a wife can keep his membership, or they can leave their memberships to their daughters. We have cases right now where this is happening."
Also, for the first time since the bylaw change was formally approved last year, "we're processing some women. They've never applied until now," he said.
He said Hillcrest has previously taken steps to ensure that it has non-Jewish members and is otherwise non-discriminatory. There are about two dozen non-Jewish members, he said.
Levey responded to inquiries about membership policies at Hillcrest after state Board of Equalization member Conway Collis said in an interview Monday morning that he had learned of the bylaw change.
Collis has been seeking adoption of a regulation taking tax deductions away from those paying for memberships and meals in private, discriminatory clubs.
Collis praised the change at Hillcrest. He said Jewish lawmakers and other officials in Sacramento had long been subject to sharp questioning when they sought to end racial, religious and sex discrimination at Gentile clubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities, with the questioners suggesting that Jewish clubs were just as guilty of discriminatory behavior as the other clubs.
Collis said Hillcrest was often mentioned in this connection, since it is the best-known predominantly Jewish golf club in the state.
Last Friday, officials of the all-male Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles said that club is considering the possibility of soon admitting women members. A Jonathan Club board meeting is scheduled for discussion of the subject tonight. The club also has recently begun admitting Jews.
Part of the impetus for some of the state's most prestigious clubs moving toward non-discriminatory policies has been the threat of new local and state laws that would take action on clubs shown to be discriminatory.
On May 6, a Los Angeles City Council committee is scheduled to consider an ordinance being drafted by Councilwoman Joy Picus and City Controller Rick Tuttle that would outlaw discriminatory policies by clubs with more than 400 members and allow both those discriminated against and the city attorney's office to bring suit against them.
On June 16, the state Franchise Tax Board is expected to take final action on Collis' motion to bar tax deductions of payments for club membership and activities.
Levey said Monday that he was speaking only reluctantly on the moves by his club, since there has long been a policy of making no comment on such matters, both by his club and by other leading country clubs on the Westside.
But he made a statement when informed that the outlines of the Hillcrest changes had already been confirmed by Collis and several Hillcrest members who declined to be identified.