More than 100 San Fernando Valley horse owners on Thursday blasted a complicated set of restrictions they fear are designed to drive their beloved animals out of suburban neighborhoods across Los Angeles.
At a raucous 90-minute meeting at the Sherman Oaks Woman's Club, a standing-room-only crowd of equestrians decried a proposed Los Angeles law that would more closely regulate how horses are kept within city limits.
"They're trying to change a whole lifestyle for a lot of people," Granada Hills resident Kent Lovelady said. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this is warped to suit somebody's needs, but not a horse owner's."
Lovelady and other equestrians said they felt betrayed because planners did not listen to recommendations they made in a 1992 document dubbed "The Horse Owner's Bill of Rights." That report was prepared at the request of Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, who wanted to streamline the complicated laws now governing horse keeping and to balance the needs of horse owners with the desires of developers.
But planners who drafted the regulations say the new rules would actually make it easier for horse owners to maintain their lifestyle in the face of pressure from developers. In fact, they said, the bulk of the new regulations are minor changes to existing rules.
"There is no conspiracy here," city planner Steve Ciccarelli said. "There really isn't."
Among other things, the regulations would require 2,000 square feet of corral space for horses. Opponents claim that is too much space and they also attack a requirement to set pens and stables back at least 10 feet from property lines. Existing properties that do not meet the requirements would be exempted.
But if a licensed horse has not been kept on the property for more than three years, a property owner would be required to make the necessary changes before a new horse would be allowed. Opponents complain that would leave them with no flexibility and unable to sell their property to other horse enthusiasts.
The Planning Commission was to consider the regulations Thursday, but the vote was delayed at least two weeks because the body lacked a quorum. Arline DeSanctis, field deputy for City Councilman Joel Wachs, said her office will ask the Planning Department to meet with equestrians before the next meeting to talk about the regulations and to try to iron out a compromise.
"People are totally confused right now," DeSanctis said.