November 20, 2008--Los Angeles, Calif.-- Celebrities could drop their children off at school and visit their doctors without fear of being accosted by paparazzi under a proposal introduced by a Los Angeles city councilman this week.
The proposed law, the latest effort by Councilman Dennis Zine to combat aggressive tabloid photographers, would restrict commercial photography and video recordings within 20 feet of schools, hospitals and medical facilities.
Zine said he crafted the ordinance protecting "sensitive-use locations" in response to complaints from celebrities and other citizens about "swarms" of paparazzi.
"The goal is to have a safe area where people can conduct themselves . . . so we don't have the chaotic circumstances we now encounter," Zine said.
Earlier this year, the councilman proposed a "personal safety zone" around celebrities, but that effort stalled after the Los Angeles Police Department called it unnecessary and unenforceable.
Zine said legal experts have signed off on the constitutionality of his current proposal.
The ordinance would not prohibit paparazzi from using long lenses.
"You can make it 200 feet. With a lens, it doesn't matter," said Frank Griffin of the Bauer-Griffin photo agency.
He said the law would benefit paparazzi by eliminating shot-ruining crowds around targeted celebrities.
"It would give [photographers] more space," he said.
Zine convened a task force this summer to address what he has called a "new breed" of more intrusive paparazzi. On Wednesday, representatives from one agency involved in the task force, the LAX police, told a City Council committee that photographers did not pose a serious problem in their jurisdiction.
"It's proven to be insignificant," said James Butts Jr., deputy executive director for LAX's law enforcement and protection services.
He said that as many as 70 celebrities pass through Los Angeles International Airport each day, but most go undetected by the half a dozen photographers who wait outside the airport for tips from publicists and paid sources.
Police intervention was required only twice this year for confrontations between photographers and famous subjects, he said. In September, rapper Kanye West and his road manager were arrested after an altercation with paparazzi as he arrived for a flight. Two months before that, photographers surrounded a vehicle taking Britney Spears away from a terminal.