Do you feel that no one should be above the law? Do you believe that our leaders should pursue justice, and set aside other motives? Should they be guided by facts, not emotion?
Representatives of the Pho Hoa An restaurant came before the Garden Grove City Council on Tuesday to appeal the earlier denial of a conditional use permit allowing the sale of hard liquor, a decision of the city’s planning commission.
Located in what police describe as a “high crime” area along Euclid Street and north of Hazard Avenue, the Pho Hoa An has been cited for numerous violations and problems over the years, including quite recently.
Too loud. Smoking allowed in the eatery. Non-permitted sound amplification equipment. Non-permitted karaoke. And on and on. What makes this more egregious is that these violations continued even after the applicant promised to do better.
Slam dunk, right? Appeal denied. But no. The council voted 5-2 to continue the matter with an eye to making some accommodation with the appellant.
Although the police and planners listed dozens of instances of violations of state law and the municipal code, the council was disposed to disregard the findings of the commission and the GGPD.
Here were some of the things said in defense of the grossly out-of-compliance restaurant (I am paraphrasing):
- This is part of the culture.
- If this operator is forced out, a new operator will come in and do the same thing.
- If you don’t patronize these businesses you can’t understand them.
- We don’t want to let “a family business” fail.
The mayor – jokingly – even said that the noise problem was only bothering Santa Ana residents across the street, not Garden Grovers, so what the heck?
Things got weirder. The city attorney – looking and sounding uncomfortable as if he was sitting on a tack – told the council that if the appeal were upheld, there would have to be “findings” that supported the decision. In other words, the city had to say that it endorsed the CUP application as being responsible and without a negative effect on the community, despite a long laundry list to the contrary.
The citizen – and the voter – has the right to ask “Are there two municipal codes here? One for a strip mall at Hazard and Euclid and another one for the rest of Garden Grove?”
Does the law apply equally to all, without fear or favor? Without sentiment or special pleading?
This is a not a big deal and yet it is. The Republic won’t fall because a problem-plagued business got a new lease on life due to a head-scratching decision on the part of the city council.
However, that same council is almost certainly going to ask residents to vote this fall for a 1-cent sales tax to correct a serious “structural deficit” that is not the city’s fault. But in casting a ballot – after what we saw on Tuesday – some of us have to wonder. If the council majority can’t get the easy and obvious decisions right, that chips away at our confidence it can make sound choices with the $19 million such a tax would bring in.
We all saw how bad the illegal fireworks got on Independence Day. The problem is getting worse and – frankly – respect for the law took a beating on July 4 on the streets of Garden Grove. It was sad to see something similar happen on July 10 in the council chambers.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears every other week. Full disclosure: He does not sing karaoke, on account of his voice is more like Joe Pesci and less like Frank Sinatra.