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HEARING CLOSED, RESCHEDULED ON CURBSIDE HOOPS.

Byline: SUSAN ABRAM Staff Writer

VAN NUYS -- A hearing challenging a city order to remove a portable basketball hoop from a curb near a San Fernando Valley community activist's home was continued Tuesday after a city inspector closed the session to the public.

Nate Brogin of Sherman Oaks, who received a summons in June, appeared at the Marvin Braud Constituent Services Center but was told his case would be continued after he requested his neighbors and reporters accompany him into the hearing.

``I expect a public hearing,'' Brogin said outside the hearing. ``This case involves people in all neighborhoods.''

The complaint against Brogin was filed by Candi Kovacevich, a legal clerk for Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and a former field deputy for City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel.

Kovacevich reported that some Matilija Avenue residents, including Brogin, were violating two obscure city ordinances by placing portable hoops above the curbs outside their homes -- and technically in the public right-of-way.

One ordinance, enacted in 1936, restricts people from playing basketball, catch or anything else on city streets. The other prevents structures from being placed on a public right-of-way, including sidewalks and grassy paths that hug curbs.

Brogin has said that children use the hoops, and that they are good for the neighborhood because they keep the kids active.

Brogin's administrative hearing was held by the city's Department of Public Works, street services division. Clayton White, the chief street services inspector who was supposed to hear Brogin's case Tuesday, did not return calls inquiring why the hearing was closed.

``These hearings are not required to be open to the public,'' said Delgadillo spokesman Jonathan Diamond, speaking on behalf of the Department of Public Works.

The hearing was a first step toward resolving the issue between the city and Brogin, he said. If an agreement was not reached, then the matter would be filed to the City Attorney's Office for a public hearing.

Administrative hearings ``are not covered by the Brown Act,'' Diamond said. ``This is not a legislative decision. The hearing officer can close the hearing at his discretion.''

Some meetings fall under specific legislative laws and can be closed to the public, said Rachel Matteo-Boehm, an attorney speaking for the California First Amendment Coalition.

``Just because something happens in a public place doesn't mean it's a public hearing,'' she said.

Diamond also denied the hearing was closed to the public because of preferential treatment of a city employee -- in this case Kovacevich, who filed the complaint.

``As far as I'm aware, no one has come to us and asked to involve ourselves in the handling of a public case,'' Diamond said. ``The folks who work with us are residents of the city of Los Angeles. We don't tell them not to be citizens. We encourage it. It's unfortunate (the public) was not allowed in.''

Meanwhile, the case was continued to an undetermined date.

susan.abram(at)dailynews.com

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 2, 2006
Words:489
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