W. Hollywood Activist Says Critics Didn't Force Her Out

Times Staff Writer

Embattled community activist Jeanne Dobrin, who has resigned as a West Hollywood transportation commissioner effective Feb. 1, said last week that her departure "has nothing to do" with a campaign by several business owners to have her removed.

"I've made it clear that I want to devote more time to other issues that concern me," said Dobrin, who was appointed to the seven-member commission by Councilman Steve Schulte two years ago.

Several West Hollywood restaurant and nightclub owners had charged that Dobrin used her authority as a commissioner to threaten their businesses and had called on Schulte to oust her.

Dobrin, a real estate broker, has been praised even by some of her detractors for her unflagging civic-mindedness.

Fixture at Civic Meetings

In addition to her duties as a commissioner, she has been a fixture at meetings of the City Council, the Planning Commission and the Business License Commission.

"In her spare time, she will go to neighborhood association meetings on top of all that," said Sibyl Zaden, a friend of Dobrin's and a fellow transportation commissioner.

However, such enthusiasm has also contributed to Dobrin's problems with some business owners, who assert that she has traded on her authority as a commissioner to stir trouble about such issues as parking, outdoor signs and sidewalk dining.

"She told me plainly, 'I'm going to have you shut down,' " said Debbie King, owner of King's Croissant, a take-out restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. Dobrin insisted the restaurant was illegally permitting outdoor dining.

In an interview, Dobrin denied ever having made the threat, although she said: "I did point out to her the illegality."

Target of Criticism

In recent weeks Dobrin has been the target of sharp criticism by the publisher of a community newspaper, which asked its readers to fill out petitions addressed to Schulte demanding her resignation.

"I think a lot of people got tired of her throwing her weight around and decided to stand up and do something about it," said Steve Michael, who publishes West Hollywood USA, a twice-monthly newspaper.

Dobrin dismissed Michael's actions as "political grandstanding," and accused the twice-unsuccessful City Council candidate of "trying to grab attention" as a warm-up to a campaign for one of two council seats to be contested in April.

Michael has indicated that he intends to be a candidate.

Schulte, who praised Dobrin as a "good transportation commissioner," said she "decided to resign on her own.

"We discussed what was involved, what her interests were, and the fact that some people had talked (with me) about their problems with her," he said. "But anyone who knows Jeanne Dobrin knows she's a strong-minded woman who isn't intimidated by what others say."

'No Evidence'

Schulte said he had "no evidence that she ever misrepresented her position" as a commissioner.

"I couldn't care less what Steve Michael says," the councilman declared. "The fact that I've received exactly two petitions (demanding her resignation) attests to the kind of clout he has."

Last year, Dobrin raised the ire of several nightclub owners by pushing for an ordinance to regulate flyers attached to telephone polls and tree trunks, which she and others said gave West Hollywood a "seedy look."

Along with a few other civic activists, she has been vigilant in opposing new beer and wine licenses, which has put her at odds with some restaurateurs.

And she has frequently irritated nightclub owners along Sunset Boulevard, who say that increased parking restrictions in neighborhoods adjacent to the boulevard, advocated by Dobrin, have hurt business.

"I'm just pleased she's no longer going to be in a position of power," said Bill Gazzarri, owner of Gazzarri's on the Strip, who is among the commissioner's harshest critics.

However, Tony Melia, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, called Dobrin "one of the most informed and prepared" of all the city's commissioners.

"She's a stickler for the i's being dotted and the t's being crossed, and not everyone can handle that," said Melia, who has had his own differences with Dobrin.

A Dobrin supporter who did not want to be identified said: "If (her opponents) think they can celebrate now that she's going off the commission, they've got another think coming.

"This just means she will now have more time to devote to some of her other causes."

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