AGOURA HILLS : City Shuts Down Restaurant Playground in Permit Dispute
A small, blond child pushed against the door to the play area with all his might, his rosy cheeks puffed out from the exertion. But the door wouldn’t budge and the boy finally called to his mom out of frustration, though the cry was barely audible in the lunchtime din rising up inside Carl’s Jr. Monday.
Much to the chagrin of the 20-some children gathered in this Agoura Hills fast-food restaurant, it may take a lot more than a push on the wrought-iron gate to get the playground opened.
According to signs in the restaurant, employees and petitions--signed by more than 300 restaurant patrons--Agoura Hills city officials closed down the playground because they didn’t like its color scheme--bright purple and green. The city prefers a more sedate gray, tan or white.
But city officials said they have not had the opportunity to rule on the playground’s color scheme. They are concerned about its dimensions. The highest part of the jungle gym rises above the sign outside the restaurant, a planning department official said.
“The real issue here,” said Dave Anderson, Agoura Hills’ community development director, “is that Carl’s Jr. did not obtain the permits needed to add such a play area before they constructed it.”
He said the city is now “working backward” with the restaurant to determine that the play area is “not a liability for the community.”
“If this had been done correctly in the beginning, we could have addressed the issue of the height and determined previous approval for the play equipment in the first place.”
Anderson was reluctant to say whether the city does indeed have a problem with the bright purple and green spiraling up out of the restaurant, as the people at Carl’s Jr. claim. But he did say that any addition to the building, including a play area, must blend into the more sedate colors of the surrounding buildings.
“Ideally, the play structure should be incorporated into the surrounding buildings, so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb,” Anderson said. “Our codes speak to that. No structure should distract from the others.”
“What other colors should they make it?” asked Leslie Campbell, mother of three, and Kelli Skinner, mother of two, in unison.
“Please, it’s for the kids,” Campbell added, before she ran after a rambunctious child.
“We have been waiting and watching for months,” said Sally Osborne, who stopped in with her four children to add her name to the petition. “We keep driving by, wondering, is it open?”
After briefly pressing their faces against the glass, Glen Patasini and Ryan Schiedermayer, both 6, had a better idea. Not ones to waste a seems-like-summer day, they had Ryan’s mom order lunch to go and left for a park.
Barbara Murphy, the leader of a movement to recall the entire Agoura Hills City Council and who signed the petition, said the city has long been unfriendly to the business community.
“I have seen that playground. It is colorful. It is wonderfully colorful for the children,” Murphy said. “And the city’s stubbornness on this issue is just another example of their inflexibility.”
Yet, Mayor Louise Rishoff said there is nothing inflexible about requiring permits for city construction.
“There is a basic question of public safety in the permit process,” Rishoff said. “And moreover, there is the task of ensuring that a community looks the way its residents want it to look. That is an important and imperative government interest.”