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Football-and-Frisbee beach furor rocks L.A. County

February 15, 2012 |  8:27 am

Photo: A student at Loyola Marymount enjoys a game of Frisbee at sunny Venice Beach. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County supervisors faced a furor of national proportions amid viral reports that authorities were about to give out $1,000 fines to football- and Frisbee-throwers at the beach.

The problem? Those reports were erroneous.

As The Times' Ari Bloomekatz reports, the root of the flareup came when county officials tried to fix a problem that did not really exist.

The dust-up began last week when the supervisors approved what they thought was a routine updating of various county beach codes, including a 4-decade-old ban on playing football and Frisbee on public sand.

But that section of the law was obscure. Beach officials had not issued a single citation in at least 40 years.

The update, part of an effort by county lawyers to clean up and modernize volumes of laws, called for loosening the ban on ball play during the fall, winter and spring months when fewer crowds are at the beach.

But then erroneous media reports went viral, with various websites and talk-radio stations spreading the purported news that the county had enacted a $1,000 fine against would-be football and Frisbee throwers.

Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh set the tone, calling the county's law an "encroachment of soft tyranny."

Protests started pouring in via phone calls and email, prompting Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to hold a news conference to clarify the issue.

He held up a football and assured that "nobody's going to get fined $1,000" for throwing one and asked beachgoers to exercise "common sense."

By Tuesday, officials also ordered the director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors to once again explain the Frisbee- and ball-playing provisions at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. But that was still not enough.

The supervisors then ordered staff to rewrite the section of the ordinance regarding Frisbee- and ball-playing "in a manner which clearly states that such activities by small groups and individuals are allowed at all times on the county beach," with a few exceptions.

"While I appreciate the clarification, I'm concerned once again that the misunderstanding will continue," said Supervisor Don Knabe, who added that the codes should be written so that allowing such activities becomes "the rule and not the exception."


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Photo: A Loyola Marymount student enjoys a game of Frisbee at sunny Venice Beach. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times