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Route 66 bike night gets the go-ahead

Planners also give gym owner more time to work out code details

Posted: May 6, 2009 12:19 p.m.
Updated: May 6, 2009 12:19 p.m.
George Thomas got a four-month green light Tuesday night for the popular motorcycle night he hosts at his Route 66 Classic Grill.

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission continued until Sept. 1 a request for a five-year temporary use permit for the bike night. In the meantime, the four-month permit the city is granting him will allow him to continue holding the events.

"This was a dismal picture for us two weeks ago," Thomas told the commission. "Those tables have turned to a certain degree."

The four-month permit comes with a few conditions: The bike nights are allowed every other week, and Thomas must pay about $600 to have two on-duty sheriff's deputies on the scene during bike nights.

Thomas also presented the commission with a 750-signature-strong petition in favor of bike night.

The final formality is for the owner of the shopping center at the corner of Soledad Canyon Road and Luther Drive to sign an acknowledgement that he is aware of the four-month permit, Planning Manager Lisa Webber said.

"We have every reason to believe that is forthcoming," she said.

In recent weeks, Thomas grew concerned the Planning Commission might severely limit the number of bike nights he could hold - a move he said would have a dire effect on his business.

For the better part of a decade, Thomas has hosted the weekly bike night at his Canyon Country eatery between April and November, drawing hundreds of bikers and featuring live music.

Sheriff's Capt. Anthony La Berge has raised concerns to city officials about what he said is a presence of motorcyclists who are members of the Vagos and Mongols motorcycle clubs. The two groups are categorized as outlaw motorcycle gangs by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the years Route 66 has hosted bike night, Thomas said there have been no violent incidents.

The four-month permit will allow for a trial period of sorts, Webber said. It will allow city staff to prepare a recommendation when
Thomas' five-year permit request returns to the commission.

Steve Allen was one of more than a dozen people who spoke in Thomas' support during the public comment period.

"I've never, ever witnessed any problem," said Allen, a retired 35-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department. "You've had seven years to evaluate him."

In other business, the commission gave Hugo Cherre more time to work with the city in bringing his Hugo's Gymfitness gymnastics center into compliance with city codes.

The commission voted to continue until June 2 a request to approve a 20-percent parking adjustment for the gym, passing up an alternate recommendation to revoke Cherre's permit.

The Planning Commission approved a permit in February 2008 for Cherre to use 1,006 square feet for instructional space, 1,122 square feet for office space and 9,620 square feet of storage space to house equipment for his mobile gymnastics training program, according to a city report.

Cherre has 450 children enrolled in programs at his gym.

In May 2008, city officials reportedly visited Gymfitness and found the business was using more space for instruction than was approved, and that no approvals or occupancy certificates had been granted by the Los Angeles County Fire Department or the county departments of building and safety and environmental services.

Additionally, because the business was using more space than had been approved, an insufficient number of parking spaces was available. The city calculates parking spaces in part based on square footage of the space used by a building's tenant.

In recent months, city planning staff has met with Cherre and given him complete lists of what he needs to do. So far, he has made headway, according to Assistant Planner Ray Barragan.

To allow for a 20-percent parking adjustment, Barragan said Cherre must effect a 41-percent reduction in the instruction area - primarily through elimination of some equipment.

While Cherre works out the details, city staff is also verifying that the trampoline, bleachers, rock climbing wall and retaining walls for a foam pit do indeed conform to state guidelines, city building official Ruben Barrera said.

A number of parents of Cherre's students turned out in his support.

"This guy is overdoing the safety by a mile," said local diving coach Mike Smith. "I think we should do all we can to support him."


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