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STUDIO CITY : Golf Course Gets Tentative OK on Permit

To the delight and applause of a hearing room full of golfers Monday, a city zoning official said he planned to approve a permit for the continued operation of the Studio City Golf Course--but only after consulting with the city attorney’s office.

“I think it has been a good use for the community,” said Horace Tramel, associate zoning administrator. He added, however, that questions over the course’s application for a conditional-use permit warranted legal review, “and I am not an attorney.”

The afternoon hearing at the Sherman Oaks Woman’s Club pitted the Weddington Investment Partnership, which owns the land, against the operators of the course. The course is seeking to stay in business, and the partnership wants to sell the plot or lease it at a higher rate.

As the hearing got under way, the overflow audience of primarily retiree golfers quickly painted the partnership as a stingy business out to take away their golf in the interest of profits.

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“It’s all about money!” one woman shouted.

The partners discovered this spring that the course’s conditional-use permit expired more than nine years ago. They contend that the expiration nullifies the course’s lease--which was first signed in 1955 and brings them a mere $1,000 a month on the 17.2 acres of prime urban property.

“We’re just asking for a fair price,” said Mort Allen, a Studio City realtor representing the partnership. He added that the partnership was not seeking to develop the lot, but rather renegotiate its lease with Studio City Golf Course or bring in a new operator.

Gary Morris, a private planning consultant working for the golf course, said allowing the original permit to expire was simply an “oversight.”

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The course had received approval for such permits from the 1950s through the 1970s, he said, and since nothing had substantially changed at the course since the last application in 1975, there was no reason to deny granting a new one.

“We’ve had over 2,700 people say, ‘We like it just the way it is--leave it alone,’ ” Morris said.

Associate Zoning Administrator Tramel agreed that the golf course had proven itself a good neighbor, and the primary sticking point becomes whether course operators have the right even to apply for a new permit.

Citing city ordinances, partnership attorney Bob Smith said only an owner or lessee may apply for a conditional-use permit. And, he contended, according to the lease agreement, the golf course ceased to be the lessee on May 1, 1985, when the previous permit expired.

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Before he releases his recommendation, Tramel said, the city attorney’s office will look at that charge, as well as allegations that not all neighbors within 500 feet of the course were notified 24 days before Monday’s hearing, as required by law. Either side can appeal Tramel’s ruling.

But regardless of the outcome regarding the permit, the fight over the precise meaning of the original lease is likely to wind up in court.

While the crowd Monday was distinctly one-sided, supporting the golf course with cheers and hammering the Weddington Partnership with boos, Gail Becker, who lives near the green swath, said there were indeed two sides to this story.

She said that she’d be angry if she were the owner and only getting $1,000 a month.

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“I don’t care if they raise the rent . . . just as long as it remains a golf course. L.A. city owes the people some things of beauty.”


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