Local Laws ’97


Local law and policy makers adopted regulations covering everything from gun sale curbs to improving sanitation conditions in restaurants. San Marino gave the green light to alcohol sales in restaurants, while Pasadena residents found a way to have eternal rest in columbaria. Here’s a sampling of local laws approved in 1997.

Los Angeles County

No parking--Since 1991, the county has prohibited parking cars in frontyards. But enforcing the measure required hearings, witnesses and costly paperwork. In a revision of that policy, county parking officers can now write $55 tickets to lawbreakers.

Health--Spurred by a controversy over unsanitary conditions in restaurants, county officials adopted more stringent measures to ensure that public health standards are met. Reforms include mandatory training for restaurant employees who handle food, establishment of a hotline for public complaints and granting of broader power to health inspectors to immediately shut down major violators. The action came after several well-known eateries were closed temporarily for health code violations.


Child support--The county can now clamp down on its employees who are in arrears in child support payments. The ordinance also will require vendors and contractors doing business with the county, as well as people applying for licenses and permits, to make sure their employees are living up to the terms of child support orders. Unlike private employers, the county had been exempt from a requirement to provide employment information to the state for child support enforcement.

Los Angeles

Panhandling--In a measure whose implementation was later blocked, the City Council barred abusive begging, panhandling near bank ATMs, asking motorists for money and washing windshields without permission. Among various provisions, the law made it a misdemeanor for people to intimidate passersby by blocking their path, touching them or using profane, offensive or abusive language while seeking money. In late October, however, a federal judge barred its enforcement, saying it is discriminatory because it applies only to people soliciting money.

Living wage--The minimum pay was increased for employees of businesses with municipal contracts worth more than $25,000 and companies that receive at least $100,000 a year or $1 million in onetime grants of city financial assistance. These businesses must pay their janitors, security guards, gardeners, food service workers and similar employees at least $7.25 an hour with benefits--including health insurance and 12 paid days off annually--or $8.50 an hour without benefits.

Police--Outgunned for years, Los Angeles Police Department officers now have the option of replacing their standard 9-millimeter service weapons with more powerful .45-caliber handguns. More than 120 high-powered rifles were put into the squad cars of patrol supervisors, and the use of more powerful ammunition for shotguns was approved. Later in the year, the LAPD received 600 surplus M-16 rifles from Gov. Pete Wilson.

Gun control--To reduce the tide of violence and close loopholes in state and city laws, officials passed a package of gun control measures requiring that trigger locks or similar safety devices be sold with guns. Background checks are required on all gun shop employees and the sale of ammunition magazines and clips that can be converted to hold more than 10 rounds is banned.

Gas leafblowers--After more than a year’s delay, the City Council is poised to start cracking down on the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers. On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to give final hearing to an amended version of last year’s ban that would prohibit use of the machines within 500 feet of a residence, but scale down the penalty to an infraction and a $100 fine for both gardeners and employers. The ban, first approved by the council in May 1996 but postponed after major opposition, is intended to combat noise and air pollution.


Agoura Hills

Curfew--A curfew was established for minors in a bid to curb truancy and teenage crime. Minors will be stopped by deputies if they are in public areas between 10 p.m. and sunrise and between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on school days.


Trash--Because some residents were leaving garbage cans in front of their homes for days, the city made it illegal to have refuse containers on the street before 6 p.m. the night before collection or after 10 p.m. the day of collection.


Homeless--Responding to complaints about homeless people in the city’s business district, officials approved a law making it a misdemeanor for people to drink alcohol or relieve themselves in public places.


Billboards--No longer will images of bare-chested men and scantily clad women hawking cigarettes and alcohol stare down from billboards in Compton. Following the lead of Baltimore and Chicago, Compton banned alcohol and tobacco billboard advertising. The ban allows a two-year grace period for existing billboards.

Culver City

Signs--A sign ordinance was modified, allowing new business owners to keep old signage in place even if signs do not meet new codes. The measure also allows more signs.


Day laborers--People who solicit work on city streets and public areas and those who attempt to hire them can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. The law took effect after a home improvement store opened in Monrovia a few hundred yards from the Duarte border. The store established a hiring site to connect workers and potential employers.



Property owners--In keeping with Glendale’s housing maintenance laws, which stipulate that residential properties be maintained for both aesthetic and practical reasons, the city passed a commercial and industrial property maintenance code.


Building owners--It is now illegal to use garish colors on the exterior of any commercial or industrial structure in the city. The Planning Department has a list of approved colors and a palette of paint chips to guide building owners.


Towers--A new ordinance requires siting plans from firms building wireless communication towers. Sparked by a rush of companies building towers, it forces firms to file plans, imposes limitations on height and location and gives preferences to firms that are in partnership with other services.


Commercial development--The City Council voted to confine commercial development to a roughly 60-block section of downtown, rezoning outlying areas from commercial to residential.

Long Beach

Domestic partnership--An ordinance was passed to allow same-sex and other unmarried couples to pay a fee and register with the city as domestic partners. It ensures visiting rights for partners to jails and hospitals.


Flag--An ordinance was adopted permitting the POW-MIA flag to be flown at all city facilities every day to honor prisoners of war and military personnel missing in action. When the Lomita post office refused to allow the flag to be flown, former Councilman Dave Albert began a national campaign on the issue. Congress passed a law in November requiring the flag to be flown at all U.S. post offices and federal buildings on all six patriotic holidays, and several cities locally and nationwide have adopted the federal law.



Day laborers--The city barred workers from soliciting employment from motorists. It was already illegal for employers to pull over in a vehicle and hire workers; now it is illegal for workers to approach cars for work. Offenders will be fined up to $271.

Manhattan Beach

Skateboarding--The city amended its municipal code to prohibit riding skateboards at city schools and parks.


Resting places--Laying to rest a century-old prohibition on resting places in Pasadena, the city made it legal for churches and other places of worship to have columbaria--vaults with niches for urns containing ashes of the dead. The change in November came after a year of lobbying by All Saints Episcopal Church. It plans a columbarium with 300 niches at its church in downtown Pasadena. There are no cemeteries in Pasadena.

Firearms--The city banned the sale of firearms outside the industrial areas of Pasadena, required all federally licensed firearms dealers to obtain a special permit from the city and outlawed the sale of guns from homes. It also required all gun dealers to keep $1 million in liability insurance and provide a trigger lock or safety device on new guns.


Guns--In a year when the murder rate soared and half a dozen people died in one 24-hour period, the city banned the sale of small, low-cost, easily concealed weapons known as Saturday night specials. The law is modeled after one in West Hollywood. The Pomona law also requires purchasers of ammunition to register their names and addresses with the police.

San Fernando

Gangs--The city attorney is authorized to seek civil injunctions against members of the Shaken Cat Midgets street gang that would bar them from engaging in a host of otherwise legal activities, such as gathering on public property or on private property within the injunction area without written permission of the owner.


San Marino

Alcohol sales--The city ended a prohibition on restaurants selling alcohol, which had made San Marino the nearest thing to a dry town in California. The change came after council members and business leaders argued that it would make it easier to lure upscale restaurants to the commercial area along Huntington Drive. The law allows the sale of alcohol only with food and between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Santa Clarita

Homeless--Over the objections of some residents who fear a surge of transients from Los Angeles, the city agreed to help fund Santa Clarita’s first shelter for the homeless, in anticipation of winter storms.

Santa Monica

Pedicabs--The City Council approved a one-year pilot program for pedicab use. Beginning next spring, the three-wheeled vehicles, which carry one driver and two passengers, will operate on existing bike paths along Main Street.

Sierra Madre

Family--The city changed the wording of a city zoning law to define a family as only those related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” All others living together are termed a “housekeeping unit.”


Trees--Property owners weary of waiting for municipal workers to trim or replace city-owned trees on public rights of way can take matters into their own hands, thanks to the city’s new street tree policy. Property owners can apply for a city permit to have a municipal tree trimmed--as long as they hire a city-approved contractor to do the job.

West Hollywood

Living wage--A ordinance was enacted requiring that all companies contracting with the city pay employees who do city-related work a “living wage.” The ordinance defines this as $7.25 an hour with health benefits or $8.50 an hour without them.



Compiled by Times staff writers Cecilia Rasmussen and Douglas P. Shuit and correspondents Deborah Belgum, Dade Hayes, Tracy Johnson, Susan McAllister, Kevin O’Leary, Sylvia Oliande, Darrell Satzman, Julia Scheeres, Jon Steinman and Richard Winton.