CITY OF COMMERCE : Council Cancels Vote on Adult Bookstore

To the chagrin of about 200 residents shouting, "We scorn porn," the City Council last week canceled a vote on granting an operating permit to an adult bookstore after a federal judge ruled it may open.

Just before the Tuesday meeting, the city attorney announced that U.S. District Judge John G. Davies had ordered the city to allow Highland Books Inc. to open an adult bookstore and video arcade on the grounds that denying a permit would violate the store owners' 1st Amendment rights.

In response to a suit filed by Highland Books against the city, Davies included in his order 34 operating conditions that the city may oversee. Conditions include requiring the store owners to install a parking lot video camera and allowing the city to determine whether a 24-hour security guard should be hired by store owners.

"We are gratified that the judge has allowed the city some control over the store's operation," said Douglas Barnes, the lawyer who represented the city in the case.

Last year, Steve D. Weiner of Highland Books applied for a permit to open a store on Washington Boulevard. The Planning Commission denied the permit in January.

"Our city isn't bankrupt or broke. This business has nothing to offer," said commission member Rosalina Lopez. Lopez cited the bookstore's proximity to a park and a school as a concern.

The City Council was set to consider Weiner's appeal when Davies' order was issued.

"The City Council was in a tough position, being aware of 1st Amendment rights and balancing it with the community's desires," said City Clerk Judy Rambeau. "(Davies) in effect took it out of their hands."

Despite the federal court ruling, Ruth Ann Flores, a Commerce resident and representative of a grass-roots anti-pornography group of about 70 called People Opposing Pornography Shop, said residents will picket the store.

"Our goal is zero sales," Flores said. "We will be out there picketing 24 hours a day until it closes."

At the meeting, each council member indicated support for the group.

"If my action is not going to affect the city (in litigation) anymore, I will picket with you (as a resident)," Councilman Jesus Cervantes said.

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