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Santa Won’t Have to Move, City Says

December 9, 1986

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) _ This Los Angeles suburb of palm-lined streets is hardly the North Pole, but it’s where Santa Claus lives and where he’ll stay, despite some complaints from neighbors.

″Santa and Mrs. Santa do not wish to move back to the North Pole,″ attorney Gloria Allred said after Mayor Larry Zarian and City Manager James Rez said Santa could remain.

Ms. Allred, acknowledging that some people call Santa by the name Robert George, said ″his real name is Santa Claus as far as we’re concerned″ and that he had suffered a mild weekend heart attack as a result of the furor.

George had two more severe attacks and a quintuple bypass a year ago.

All he wants to do, he says, is ″to give as many children as I can the last Christmas before they die,″ and that’s why he keeps his home open all year for the busloads of sick children who come to visit.

The neighbors, angry about traffic in front of George’s home, which is dazzling with lights and holiday decorations, asked the city to do something about the noise and congestion from up to 500 daily visitors.

On Saturday, city zoning chief John McKenna told George, the official White House Santa Claus for six presidents, that converting his home to a year-round Christmas mecca was a violation of laws governing residential areas, and that he would have to move to an area zoned for commercial properties.

George assured city officials during a meeting Monday that electrical problems they were worried about would be fixed, and the city said police will assist with traffic problems, Ms. Allred said.

″I’m really in dream world and in heaven,″ George said after the meeting where Rez declared the zoning issue dead.

George, 63, was named the official White House Santa by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who invited him to the 1956 tree-lighting ceremoney. He served in that capacity for presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter.

The 38-year ex-barber said his efforts came from a 1949 dream ″to become the true Santa and put the Christmas spirit in action.″

He doesn’t wait for the Christmas season. His home is covered year-round with 5,000 ornaments, 22,000 lights, 95 Christmas trees and barrels of toys.

He calls it Dreamland and keeps it open with some help from his wife, Stella, and daughter Roxie. The effort is supported by small donations and his $68-a-month military pension and his wife’s and daughter’s outside jobs.

″We have nothing against Santa Claus, but I think this guy is just a con man,″ said neighbor Denise Ordaz. ″Traffic is a mess here because people drive by to see his house.″

Twenty-six neighbors signed a petition to the city complaining about the noise and traffic congestion.

The publicity surrounding the possible closing of Dreamland actually increased the traffic, George said Monday. ″Right now, since it hit the press, there have been 2,000 to 3,000 today.″

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