The owner of Monty's Steak House in Westwood Village is making another attempt to save the restaurant's familiar 21st-story sign.
After being denied an exemption last year to the law banning signs in the village, Dennis G. Levine lost an appeal last week to the Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Environment Committee. But he plans to take the committee's advice and seek a compromise to keep the sign from being taken down right away.
"If the sign came down, people would think that we were closed," Levine said. "I employ 60 people alone here. That's a lot of families."
Levine said he intends to meet with City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents Westwood, to work out details of a compromise.
The 400-square-foot red and yellow lighted sign has been on the building at 1100 Glendon Ave. for 19 years. It has become a landmark in the village, where locals refer to the office tower as "the Monty's building."
Under a revised sign ordinance passed in 1979, the sign was to have been removed by 1984. But Levine's request for an exemption was not considered by the Planning Commission until last year. The commission, in denying his request, voted to approve a 180-square-foot sign on the building about 22 feet from street level.
At Tuesday's meeting of the council's Planning and Environment Committee, Chairman Hal Bernson agreed that Levine would lose business if the sign were removed. But committee members Michael Woo and Ruth Galanter, who favor controls on development, argued that no exceptions should be made.
A final committee vote on the matter was postponed to early next month.
Yaroslavsky favors replacing the sign with a smaller one closer to street level.
"It doesn't matter what the sign looks like," said Michelle Krotinger, Yaroslavsky's press deputy. "It violates the ordinance. Just because you've gotten used to them (signs) doesn't mean that they should be there in violation of a law."
Krotinger said Yaroslavsky would consider delaying the removal for up to a year to give Levine time to advertise that he is not going out of business. Such a compromise would have to be approved by the Planning and Environment Committee and the City Council.
"We definitely feel that we're grandfathered (exempt from the ordinance) because we had the sign before anything was developed (in Westwood)," Levine said. "It's political, as far as I'm concerned."
Levine said his sign should be exempt because the ordinance was intended to stop a proliferation of billboards that swept Westwood during the late 1970s.
Even Westwood homeowners, who favor the 1979 sign restrictions and have endorsed plans to beautify the village, want the Monty's sign to stay. Sandy Brown, vice president of the Holmby-Westwood Homeowners Assn., has said the restaurant should be exempted from the law because it is "one of the few things in the community that has existed for a long time."
Levine's attorney, Ivan W. Halperin, said: "I think basic fairness, (the fact) that they've had the sign there for the last 19 years, that the sign is sort of a monument . . . all of these very much support their entitlement to keep the sign."