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San Juan Capistrano's dinosaur statue moves closer to extinction

January 9, 2013 |  3:13 pm

The San Juan Capistrano dinosaur stands tall in a petting zoo. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times.

The San Juan Capistrano dinosaur is one step closer to extinction after city planning commissioners voted to evict the 40-foot long Apatosaurus statue from a petting zoo in the heart of the city's oldest neighborhood.

Commissioners said the dinosaur, which peeks onto historic Los Rios Street from the tiny petting zoo, does not reflect the history of San Juan, which certainly would have been underwater when such giant lizards roamed the Earth.

Carolyn Franks, owner of Zoomars Petting Zoo, said she plans to appeal the commission's 4-2 vote.

Franks bought the 13-foot-high statue for $12,000 last June, installing it without city permission. Since then, she and a donor have spent more than $30,000 on geological studies, civil and structural engineers to inspect the site and a fresh coat of paint for the leather-necked beast.

"We're a historical animal park," she said, noting that her zoo includes alpacas, goats, rabbits and zedonks --  a cross between a zebra and a donkey. "The dinosaur is fiberglass. It's been so exciting for the kids -- and what a great way to get kids started in history at the start of history."

Opponents cite the zoo's location, on historic Los Rios Street, which is dotted with buildings more than 200 years old. The road is one of the oldest in California

Franks said she offered to screen off the statue -- which is known by its fans as Juan the Capistrano Dinosaur  -- from pedestrians’ view if the commission let the dinosaur stay.

"She came in with good ideas, including screening with trees, and I thought we could find a way to preserve the statue," said Jeff Parkhurst, a city planning commissioner who said he took both of his daughters to the zoo when they were younger.

But, alas, the dinosaur appears to be headed toward eviction

Franks now has 15 days to appeal the vote. If the commission isn't swayed, she can appeal its decision to the City Council.

She said that when she returns to City Hall, she’s considering bringing along some of the children, parents and teachers who support the dinosaur's continued residency on Los Rios.

"They wanted to wear dinosaur T-shirts because they love the statue,” she said.

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-- Anh Do

Twitter: @newsterrier

Photo: The San Juan Capistrano dinosaur stands tall in a petting zoo. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times.

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