Court Backs L.A.’s Effort to Restrict Airport Solicitors
By Los Angeles Times
September 21, 2006
By J. Michael Kennedy / Times Staff Writer
A federal court has ruled that Los Angeles International Airport is justified in restricting solicitors to reduce congestion, increase security and prevent passengers from being a captive audience.
The ruling by the U.S. District Court’s Central District reaffirmed the validity of a 2002 Los Angeles city ordinance that restricts solicitors to certain areas of the airport.
The court had barred the city from enforcing its ordinance pending the outcome of litigation. The principal challenger was the Society of Krishna Consciousness of California, one of the major solicitors of airport travelers.
The court, in its ruling released this week, said among other things that the configuration of the airport had changed dramatically since the Sept. 11 attacks, including the much-diminished amount of space open to the public.
“The change has resulted in a more than 95% decrease in the space open to the general public,” the ruling said. It also said that since Sept. 11, some of that space is occupied by large bomb detecting devices and other security measures. The “shopping mall” atmosphere that was once a part of the airport ambience no longer existed because of security precautions, the ruling noted.
Allowing solicitation throughout the airport would be disruptive because even those trying to alter their paths to avoid the solicitors would slow the flow of foot traffic.
Finally, the court said it could not strike down the ordinance simply because it might disagree with it.
“The court may not second-guess the city’s policy choice where it is supported by evidence that it is a reasonable restriction,” the ruling said.
In addition to restricting access, the ordinance requires solicitors to apply for a permit from airport officials.