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Some Irvine residents frustrated by Occupiers

Despite comments, council approves extension to allow protesters to camp out overnight at City Hall for Occupy Orange County.

November 26, 2011|By Sarah Peters

IRVINE — What do you do when one group's personal freedoms tread on another's?

That was the question poised at Tuesday's City Council meeting by concerned residents, who are frustrated over trampled landscaping and honking at all hours associated with the Occupy Orange County protesters at Alton Parkway and Harvard Avenue.

"I am shocked beyond words that this council will allow these 99% transients to destroy our public — and some private property landscaping — without any consideration to actual homeowners," Louriane Martinez, board member of the Paseo Westpark Maintenance Assn., said during the meeting. "I'm unclear as to why actual homeowners receive such disrespect and disregard. I am profoundly disappointed in this City Council's decision to allow them to remain for this long."

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Since the OOC protesters' arrival Oct. 15, the city has spent $450 per week — $2,880 total so far — to rent two electrical signs, which flash "Quiet Zone," and incurred $4,900 in legal fees, according to a city staff report.

The legal fees paid to law firm Rotan & Tucker have allowed the city to work out agreements with the protesters that preserve their 1st Amendment rights to assemble. The demonstrators generally are allowed to use the park during daytime hours and sidewalks 24 hours a day.

However, after listening to more than 40 public comments, City Council members approved a second two-week extension to allow Occupiers to continue to sleep overnight on the City Hall lawn until noon Dec. 7.

Occupiers were granted the ability to camp overnight Oct. 25 for a two-week period, which was extended for a second two-week period Nov. 9 and then set to expire Wednesday at noon.

"We'll stay here until the movement fails or we win," protester Andrew Weber, 26, said Wednesday.

The Irvine resident has been part of the OOC movement at Irvine City Hall since its beginning, he said.

While he admits that motorists honk at night, despite the electronic signs on Alton and Harvard, those motorists are "people who don't like us and are trying to cause trouble for us," Weber said.

As for the now-dead grass and muddied parcel of land, it was already in poor shape before the protesters arrived, Weber and other demonstrators said.

"It's mostly crab grass," said protester Joey Cadavid, 23, of Irvine. "And, the wet mud exists because of the rain, and then they over-watered it."

The land is maintained by the Westpark Homeowners Assn., and the grass has live roots that extend deep into the soil that need to be watered, which is why the protesters are required to move twice weekly, said Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers.

Protesters met with members of the council Tuesday in hopes of removing this provision from the agreement, Cadavid said.

However, the provision will stand, according to the latest draft posted on the city website Wednesday.

Among the other terms: Protesters are not allowed to use cooking equipment or heaters; they must vacate the area from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays for lawn maintenance; and electrical equipment must comply with city codes.

Additionally, the agreement requires protesters to pay for their own port-a-potties and trash collection, and they must restore the area to its preexisting condition upon vacating.

sarah.peters@latimes.com

Twitter: @speters01

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