KOREATOWN : Justices Reject Case on Riot-Damaged Stores

A Koreatown-based advocacy organization has suffered a major setback in its campaign to help grocers escape city regulations imposed on rebuilding efforts after the 1992 riots.

On July 18, the Korean-American Grocers' Victims Assn. lost its bid to overturn a March state Court of Appeal decision when the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The association has argued that the regulations, which include requirements such as security guards and limited hours of operation, are unfair because they are not applied to grocers whose establishments were not damaged in the riots.

"These regulations are sporadic and they penalize these people for being unfortunate," said Mehee Kim, an association spokeswoman. "This is not a victims' issue; it is a community issue and a fairness issue."

Kim said the Supreme Court decision was very discouraging to the grocers represented by her group and the Korean-American Legal Advocacy Foundation, which had assisted with the legal work.

"We're trying to decide what to do next," she said.

The foundation's leaders said they will monitor similar cases that dispute the fairness of store regulations in Oakland and Hermosa Beach. Kim said those cases might lead to precedents that could be favorable to the local grocers' case.

The group is backing an Assembly bill that would exempt liquor store owners whose businesses were destroyed during the riots from a range of requirements, including the hiring of full-time security guards. The Assembly passed the bill and sent it to the state Senate, but Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan asked to have it put on inactive status, promising to seek a local solution.

Until then, the eight grocers who brought the suit, and the dozens of others affected by the regulations, will have to hope for the best, Kim said.

"There's not a lot we can do," Kim said.

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