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Santa Monica Nativity Scenes v City

Santa Monica Nativity Scenes v City

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Published by Howard Friedman

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Published by: Howard Friedman on Dec 01, 2012
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12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTCENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIASANTA MONICA NATIVITY SCENESCOMMITTEE,Plaintiff,v.CITY OF SANTA MONICA, et al.,Defendants. _______________________________ )))))))))))CASE NO.:CV 12-8657 ABC (Ex)ORDER GRANTING CITY’S MOTION TODISMISSPending before the Court is Defendant City of Santa Monica’s (the“City’s”) Motion to Dismiss, filed on October 31, 2012. (Docket No.21.)
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Plaintiff Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee opposed onNovember 12, 2012, and the City replied on November 19, 2012. TheCourt finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oralargument and VACATES the December 3, 2012 hearing date. Fed. R. Civ.P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. For the reasons below, the motion is GRANTEDand this case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
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Plaintiff has dismissed the individually named City CouncilDefendants with prejudice, leaving the City as the only remainingDefendant. (Docket No. 33.) Therefore, the Court need not addressthe portion of the motion directed at those Defendants.
Case 2:12-cv-08657-ABC-E Document 39 Filed 11/29/12 Page 1 of 25 Page ID #:1235
 
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BACKGROUND
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In this case, Plaintiff mounts a constitutional challenge to adecision by the City of Santa Monica to repeal an exception to itsgeneral ban on private “unattended displays” that operated to permitcertain unattended “Winter Displays” in the City’s Palisades Parkevery December. On November 19, 2012, the Court denied Plaintiff’sapplication for a preliminary injunction on the ground that Plaintifffailed to raise serious questions that the City’s ban violated theFree Speech and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment or theEqual Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Docket No. 38.)The City has now moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims on the samegrounds, and for the same reasons, the Court concludes thatPlaintiff’s complaint must be dismissed with prejudice.
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As part of the limited and heavily used public space in the City,Palisades Park is a narrow strip of park land bordering downtown SantaMonica and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. (City’s Request forJudicial Notice (“RJN”), Ex. L at 145.) The City’s LandmarksCommission has designated it as a landmark and the City’s LocalCoastal Program Land Use Plan requires that its views be protected.(Id. at 193—94.)For decades during December a series of life-size displaysdepicting the Christmas Nativity scene was erected in Palisades Park.(Compl. ¶ 14.) From 1955 to 2010, this tableau was comprised of 14separate 18-foot-long display booths, each of which “offered passersbya three-dimensional glimpse” into the Nativity story. (Id. ¶¶ 14,
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The City’s unopposed requests for judicial notice are GRANTED.
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Plaintiff has since dismissed its equal protection claim withprejudice. (Docket No. 33.)2
Case 2:12-cv-08657-ABC-E Document 39 Filed 11/29/12 Page 2 of 25 Page ID #:1236
 
1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272820.)These displays were allowed each year, despite several relevantenactments of regulations by the City dealing with private unattendedstructures on public park land. For example, in 1994 the City adoptedOrdinance No. 1749, which governed the utilization and maintenance ofCity parks and effectively banned all unattended displays in Cityparks. (RJN, Ex. B at 18—28.) Likewise, in 2001, the City adoptedOrdinance No. 2008, the City’s Community Events Ordinance, whichgoverns displays and installations in the context of a communityevent, although those events are generally defined as limited-durationgatherings of no more than 150 people and do not include unattendeddisplays erected for longer than one day. (Id., Ex. C at 36—37.)In 2003, concerns arose about the lack of standards for privateunattended displays in Palisades Park, in part due to three groupsinstalling displays during the prior holiday season. (Compl., Ex. 2at 2—3.) As the City staff noted, those displays were permitted ascommunity events, but the Community Events Ordinance neitherauthorized nor prohibited them. (Id.) As a consequence, on September9, 2003, the City adopted Ordinance No. 2095, which specificallyprohibited unattended displays, with exceptions for City-ownedinstallations and structures, installations authorized by a CommunityEvents Permit, and unattended displays or installations in PalisadesPark during the month of December (called “Winter Displays”). (Id. ¶¶27—29, Ex. 3; RJN, Ex. F.) Under the Winter Displays exemption,should the number of requested displays exceed the available space inPalisades Park, space would be allocated on a first-come, first-servedbasis regardless of the content of any displays or the applicant’sidentity. (RJN, Ex. F at 80.)3
Case 2:12-cv-08657-ABC-E Document 39 Filed 11/29/12 Page 3 of 25 Page ID #:1237

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