CITY HALL — Arguing that existing laws aren’t enough to protect parents and their children from being swarmed by the paparazzi at one local nursery school where some celebrities take their kids, Councilman Richard Bloom is again pushing his colleagues to accept an ordinance aimed at curbing photographers’ access to their famous subjects.
The council last considered the idea in October, when Assistant City Manager Jennifer Philips cautioned against adopting such a law, saying it would likely conflict with the Constitution’s free speech protections.
The issue came to City Hall’s attention last summer after officials received dozens of complaints from parents whose children attend First Presbyterian Nursery School on Second Street. The school has become a regular stop in the paparazzi rotation, with photographers and videographers lately gathering at the pre-school hoping to catch glimpses of actress Jennifer Garner picking up her daughter.
Parents have reported being trampled and in some cases injured by photographers jockeying for shots.
Now, despite a “good faith” effort to improve the situation by enforcing existing laws, Bloom says more needs to be done.
“It just hasn’t panned out to be the solution folks were looking for,” Bloom said of past efforts to curb the problem. “I think the best solution would be something that puts some distance between the paparazzi and the entrances [and] exits to the school.”
The City Attorney’s Office previously said that passing a law that regulates activity in public areas could conflict with the First Amendment, but Bloom, who is a lawyer, said he believes it’s possible to come up with an ordinance that balances free speech rights with City Hall’s public safety concern.
Bloom has placed the item on the City Council’s agenda for tonight.
If approved, the City Attorney would draft an ordinance “restricting photographers and videographers from blocking or otherwise creating dangerous and/or intrusive conditions at pre-school entrance and exit areas.” At a later meeting the council would have to sign-off on the potential ordinance’s language for the measure to take effect.
Meanwhile, Sgt. Jay Trisler of the Santa Monica Police Department said officers have been able to improve the situation for parents and their kids at First Presbyterian by working with the school on better ways to get celebrities in and out.
“Are paparazzi still there? Sure, but we’re not having the same issues that we had as a result of this system being put into place,” Trisler said.
A call to Mary Hartzell, the director of the pre-school, was not returned on Monday. But Trisler said he believes parents have noticed an improvement.
“We’re not getting the complaints that we had previously from the school,” he said.