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Renovation of Private Club Denied Due to Discrimination

October 22, 1985

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An exclusive beachfront club that leases half its land from the state must adopt a non-discrimination policy before proposed renovations can begin, a judge ruled.

Superior Court Judge Norman Dowds’ ruling Monday upheld a July order by the California Coastal Commission, which used the Jonathan Club’s construction application to raise the civil rights issue.

Club officials refused to disclose membership policies to the commission in July because they claimed it was outside the state’s jurisdiction. Over the years, the private club has often been the target of accusations that it excludes minorities from its membership.

″There has been no finding that the Jonathan Club does discriminate on the basis of race or color,″ Dowds said. ″But it seemed to me it was reasonable for the commission to include such a condition.″

Dowds said the commission was reasonable in imposing the condition and rejected the club’s argument that its constitutional rights were violated by requiring admission of members without regard to race, sex or religion.

″Clubs are by nature discriminatory,″ the judge said. ″They offer things to members that they do not offer to others. So the question would be whether it is a prohibited form of discrimination.″

The club wants to expand its paddle tennis courts on leased public beach land and to add to its parking lot on leased state land adjacent to its present building, which stands on private property.

″We’re saying that if you’re going to take 58,000 square feet of public trust land, you’re going to have to use the facility in such a way that a Tom Bradley can be a member, that a Dianne Feinstein can be a member, or that my kid can be a member,″ commission member Marshall Grossman said at July’s proceedings.

Bradley, mayor of Los Angeles, is black. Feinstein, the San Francisco mayor, is a woman and Jewish.

The Jonathan Club leases about half its 120,000 square feet in suburban Santa Monica from the state, giving the commission the authority to use the membership conditions as a requirement for a construction permit, Dowds said.

Access to the Santa Monica beach club and its parking lot is restricted to members.

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