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1993 Was a Very Good Year--For Regulation : Law: South Bay communities adopted or amended ordinances on everything from graffiti to utilities to dog droppings.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When it comes to new laws, 1993 may be remembered as the year cities tried to get tough on graffiti scrawlers with stiffer vandalism fines and other measures.

To be sure, city councils adopted an array of new laws and amended old ones on everything from bingo parlors (Carson) to dog droppings (Hermosa Beach). A couple (Rancho Palos Verdes and Hawthorne) also adopted utility taxes to balance their budgets and hire more police officers.

But nothing grabbed the attention of lawmakers like graffiti.

Following the lead of Los Angeles County, most South Bay cities passed ordinances prohibiting the sale of spray-paint cans to anyone younger than 18.

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Other measures adopted by several cities included making parents liable for vandalism and prohibiting minors from possessing spray-paint cans, felt-tip markers, glass cutters and other tools favored by graffiti taggers.

In Hawthorne officials formed a Graffiti and Gang Abatement Commission made up of city officials and residents who serve as Neighborhood Watch coordinators.

In addition, Lomita and Hawthorne offer $500 rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any graffiti vandal.

Several Los Angeles County cities have toughened their graffiti laws, and if the pattern continues, said Harry Reeves, Hawthorne’s chief of special services and a member of the graffiti commission, “the problem can be curbed.”

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Graffiti costs, said Reeves, ultimately hurt young vandals because money is diverted from recreation programs. “By doing this type of vandalism, it’s like cutting off the hand that feeds you,” he said.

In Lomita and Hawthorne, lawmakers beefed up curfew ordinances to cut down on the number of young people getting into trouble on the streets at night.

The laws prohibit unsupervised minors from loitering in vacant lots, playgrounds, eateries, and on streets between 10 p.m. and sunrise.

In Hawthorne, the parent or guardian of a minor found violating the curfew faces a $2,500 fine. In Lomita, a minor who breaks the curfew can be fined $250.

Budget woes were commonplace, too. Some cities opted for taxes and other measures to ease fiscal pains.

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In Hawthorne homeowners can expect to pay an average $60 more per year in taxes and Rancho Palos Verdes homeowners annually will pay on average $80 more thanks to utility-users taxes adopted in those cities. Electric, gas, water, and telephone bills will be taxed in Rancho Palos Verdes, while only telephone bills will receive the levy in Hawthorne.

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Hawthorne also approved an annual assessment on owners of residential rental properties. Owners of rental properties with five to 15 units will pay $15 per unit; those with 16-25 units pay $20, and those with 26 or more units must pay $25.

The El Segundo City Council, however, took a different approach to the city’s financial problems--the council members reduced their monthly pay by 5% to $422.

“We are trying to set an example to reduce waste in City Hall,” said Councilman Dick Switz. “If we ask others to forgo raises, we thought it would be good if the City Council cut their own salaries.”

Cities also tackled more off-beat problems.

Hermosa Beach adopted an ordinance that bans dogs from the city’s two “tot lots,” Fort-Lots-O-Fun and Sea View parks, which are fenced-in playgrounds designed for toddlers.

“Some dog owners were using the park as a relief station for their dogs,” said Deputy City Clerk Naoma Valdes.

While it’s natural for dogs to relieve themselves on the grass, said Valdes, it is also the nature of toddlers to crawl in the dirt--and put their hands in their mouths.

“There was a health hazard here,” she said.

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In Inglewood, city officials changed the zoning code to allow a firing range and gun club in the city. Councilwoman Judith Dunlap voted against the gun facility, saying that the club will send a mixed message about guns to the city’s young people.

Operators of bingo games in Carson must now provide security at the game halls or risk losing their license. City officials said that shootings have occurred at halls that were rented to people running bingo games.

El Segundo city officials decided to crack down on blaring car alarms.

Switz said that many travelers bound for Los Angeles International Airport have found parking on El Segundo streets to be a lot cheaper than any of the airport’s lots. But once the car was left behind, residents complained that alarms would go off with no one around to turn them off.

Now, those vehicle owners whose car alarms go off will receive a $200 citation.

While he doesn’t consider car alarms a huge problem, El Segundo Police Lt. Ron Scheu said it can be “a nuisance at 2 a.m.; like a barking dog.”

Times correspondent Jeff Carmona contributed to this article.


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