Pawnshop Proposal Rejected by Panel

The Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday rejected proposed restrictions that would have forced pawnshops to be located at least 300 feet away from residential neighborhoods.

The proposed regulations would also have required pawnshops to be at least 500 feet away from the nearest pawnshop and 500 feet away from schools.

Commissioners said there is no evidence that the existence of a pawnshop near a neighborhood creates crime problems in the area.

"I haven't heard a compelling case for a problem, except for the perception" of a problem, Commissioner Robert Scott said.

The final decision on the proposed restrictions, which would amend an existing city law governing pawnshops, rests with the City Council.

Pawnshops provide a needed service, said Steve Ciccarelli, the city planner who wrote the report upon which the panel's decision was based. Forcing pawnshops to locate far from residential areas would place an unreasonable burden on people who want to visit the shops, he added.

The commission decided to disapprove the restrictions over objections voiced by a planning aide to West Valley Councilwoman Laura Chick and a homeowner activist. The aide, Ken Bernstein, said that although he cannot prove a link between pawnshops and increased crime, the shops' presence creates the perception of a crime problem and could lead to a slowdown for businesses in the area.

Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn., urged the Planning Commission to vote for the distance requirements, saying that the current approval process for pawnshops does not adequately protect neighborhoods.

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