Port-a-potties, public hearings possibilities to police partying

by Robb Fulcher
Published February 21, 2008

Taking aim at the excesses of Hermosa’s nightlife, officials said they might hold “informal hearings” into the conduct of two nightspots, and the police chief suggested adding more bathrooms, perhaps port-a-potties, to prevent rampant public urination in the wee hours downtown.

Before a standing-room audience, the city Planning Commission deadlocked – with one member absent – on a proposal to hold informational hearings into the operations of Dragon on the Pier Plaza and Blue 32 on Hermosa Avenue. The commissioners agreed to table the proposal until their next regular meeting March 18, when Commissioner Kent Allen, the potential tie breaker, could attend.

If informal hearings are held they could lead to formal public hearings, after which the commission could move to trim an establishment’s hours of operation, or revoke an establishment’s conditional use permit, effectively closing the business.

The hearings were suggested by Commissioner Sam Perrotti, who pointed to Police Department records showing that eight calls about possible assaults were connected to Blue 32 last year, and the establishment had been cited twice for alleged overcrowding.

Perrotti said the eight assault calls were twice as many as any other single establishment. Commissioner Peter Hoffman, who opposed Perrotti’s calls for hearings, pointed out that the number of police calls at a nightspot did not indicate whether a crime was discovered at any of the calls.

Turning to Dragon, Perrotti pointed out that state officials were considering disciplinary action against the nightspot for allegedly violating terms of its liquor license by selling more alcohol than food. A state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control official also told the commission that Dragon violated ABC conditions “related to dancing” at least three times last year.

Hoffman said it was unclear from the police records and ABC information whether Perrotti was singling out the worst offenders among the nightspots. Commissioner Ron Pizer voted with Perrotti and Commission Chairman Langley Kersenboom sided with Hoffman.

Commissioners turned to Police Chief Greg Savelli, who was told by the City Council last week that his officers must fan out from the Pier Plaza into nearby neighborhoods to keep closing-time revelers from doing what residents describe as yelling, fighting, vandalizing, peeing and even pooping in public.

Savelli said 3,500 to 5,000 people flock to the Plaza on some weekend nights. “The demographic changes” after 10:30 or 11 p.m., he said, when college students and other out-of-towners throng the Plaza until 1:30 to 2 a.m.

Responding to questions from commissioners, Savelli said the only way to end noise and rowdiness would be to close the establishments at 8 p.m., although he stressed he was not recommending that move, and did not know whether city officials could legally do such a thing.

“You can’t police your way out of this problem,” he said.

Savelli addressed public urination by saying his officers cite offenders with a “zero tolerance” policy. He added that he will recommend the addition of port-a-potties or other bathrooms to divert the stream from parking lots and residents’ garden walls. ER