PALISADES PARK —The holiday season is getting a little less stressful for City Hall.

City Council’s ban of unattended displays at Palisades Park went even smoother last December than it did the year before, city officials said in a recent report.

For years, local church groups set up nativity scenes in the park but in 2012, council banned unattended displays. The decision came following a holiday season in which atheists stuffed the ballot box winning all but a handful of the slots allocated for the displays.

In 2012, the nativity groups relocated to a commercial property on the 2700 block of Ocean Park Boulevard. Last year they switched to Mt. Olive Lutheran Church at 14th and Maple streets.

During the first year of the ban, city officials spent about 80 hours answering questions and providing information regarding the new policies. Last year, they spent only about 21 hours on the issue.

“Leading up to and during the 2013 holiday season, fewer members of the public communicated concerns about the lack of nativity scenes which had been a holiday tradition for many years,” city officials said in the release.

Two holiday events attended by 75 or more people — and therefore requiring a permit — were held on the Third Street Promenade last year, city officials said. One was City Hall’s tree lighting ceremony and the other was the Chanukah Menorah celebration.

Nativity advocates held an event of their own in Palisades Park that did not require a permit. They unveiled a 24-foot-long scriptural banner. The display remained attended at all times.

Another Palisades Park use was debated last year when City Council approved an ordinance to regulate fitness trainers using the public park for workouts.

Since the ordinance has been enacted, use of the park by trainers is significantly down.

Only one group paid the $8,000 fee to hold large classes in Palisades Park. Another nine groups paid fees to train medium-sized or one-on-one classes in the park.

This is compared to a study by city officials prior to the ordinance during which they counted nearly 150 groups training in the park over a week-long period.

Recently, a church-state issue was raised when neighbors of Grant Elementary School cried foul over a decision to allow City of God church to hold a service at the school.

Neighbors claimed that the church created traffic and noise problems in the area. Others felt that the space shouldn’t be rented out to religious groups.

Carey Upton, director of the Facility Use Department at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, promised to do what is in his power to curb neighborhood issues.

He explained that if they withheld the space from the church, they would not be allowed to rent to other groups like the Girl Scouts or the Parent Teacher Association.

 

dave@smdp.com

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