Community Magazine

Last Slaughterhouse Standing Wins First Round with City of Rosemead

By Wonder

Last slaughterhouse standing wins first round with City of RosemeadShutting down a poultry slaughterhouse is no easy task for a city trying to keep chickens from crossing the road. Residents aren’t too big on the odor, either.

But the last remaining slaughterhouse in Rosemead has won the first round in keeping the city from forcing them to fly the coop with a temporary injunction that will consider the business owners’ right to provide local Asian customers freshly killed poultry with feet and heads intact.

Winning a preliminary injunction against the city, the owners are allowed to keep their business open during the lawsuit. This is important to local customers, who would otherwise have to travel to Whittier or to Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles to buy their specially prepared poultry.

According to Rosemead City Attorney Rachel Richman, the injunction is just a matter of legal process at this point. She said the business owners have demonstrated that some irreparable harm may take place during the period leading up to the actual trial if they were to close the business. “We weren’t surprised that the preliminary injunction would issue in the plaintiff’s favor,” Richman said. “So, the next step is that we actually have a full-blown trial on the issues.”

Rosemead cites loose chickens, offensive odors and traffic congestion as reasons it wants to shut down the poultry shop at 8932 E. Garvey Avenue. And though these annoyances serve as a legitimate complaint, an even more plausible reason to ousting the slaughterhouse is that the establishment simply does not live up to the city’s greater “Small Town America” vision.

At her recent State of the City Address, Mayor Sandra Armenta announced the implementation of city improvements that include getting rid of blight and capitalizing on citywide beautification efforts designed to market Rosemead to new businesses.

Speaking on the city’s continued prosperity and economic growth on Jun. 6, Armenta said that new restaurants such as T.G.I. Friday’s and Olive Garden, which are planning to open soon in Rosemead, would serve to increase the city’s revenue base, and this can be directly attributed to the city’s beautification program.

But the other side of the issue is the business’s civil rights. In the case of Chinese American Live Poultry, it is the right to provide freshly killed whole chickens for use in religious ceremonies. The business owners filed its lawsuit against Rosemead on Mar. 21, claiming a city ordinance that requires the business to close shop by May 12 violates its civil rights.

On Tuesday, Jun. 26, a federal judge found that CAL Poultry would suffer irreparable harm if it were forced to shut down, noting also that the public has an “interest in eliminating discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic origin.”

The owners of the poultry business, Quan and Dana Phu, argue that if the city closes their business, it will deprive local area residents of an important religious service. According to the lawsuit, Buddhists use freshly killed poultry with the head and feet intact as offerings to ancestors when praying.

The poultry business was exempt from a new ordinance that banned slaughterhouses not too long after it had opened in 1991. The city allowed Chinese American Live Poultry to remain open as long as it made no changes to its business. If, for example, the Phus wanted to renovate their slaughterhouse so to address complaints of odors, any upgrades would give cause for altering the ordinance, and that would open the door for other slaughterhouses to setup shop in the area, according to city officials.

The City of Rosemead denies any claims of discrimination regarding the poultry business’s operations. According to Richman, there is no possibility under Rosemead’s current land-use powers that a slaughterhouse can remain in the city.

“It’s a typical land-use ordinance, and the cities all around (this area) can exercise their land-use powers, so the city feels comfortable that they were exercising their land-use powers,” she said.

A date has yet to be set for the actual trial.

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