Tustin, California –
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Getting the picture at The District
Amateur photographer questions code of conduct for visitors.
Sandra Bill wanted to practice her photography skills when she visited The District last week with her friend, Jet Miller.
As Bill began snapping photos of the lighted water fountain near the AMC theater, a security guard approached her and told her she would need permission from officials to take photos.
“I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m just taking pictures of water,” Bill recalls telling the security guard.
Bill said the guard then took out a piece of paper which he referred to as a code of conduct and told her it was the shopping center’s policy not to allow photos to be taken.
Bill called the experience “insane” and doesn’t plan on visiting the center again anytime soon. “We thought it would be someplace fun to go, but there’s really no need for me to go down there. Who knows what else they’re going to do – you can’t chew gum while you’re there?”
Vestar, the firm developing The District (off of Barranca Parkway and Jamboree Road, where the helicopter base was), released on Tuesday a written set of unacceptable behavior for the shopping center.
The policy states individuals may take photos for personal use, but requires media and professional photographers to receive written permission.
Then why was Bill told she couldn’t take photos of a water fountain?
“Center management was unable to find any security officer who remembered an incident with a woman taking a photo at a fountain, and is therefore unable to provide any information about that subject,” a spokesperson for Vestar, Judith Brower, said.
However, as of Monday afternoon, one guard said visitors could not take any photos. Another guard said photos of fountains could be taken but not of the buildings.
Brower said Vestar is continuing to train the security officers and will relay the policy guidelines to them to make sure confusion does not occur in the future.
Failing to be fully clothed, lingering, remaining idle, annoying others through unnecessary staring and singing are among the restrictions set in the policy.
The policy also prohibits soliciting donations and distributing promotional material without the written permission of The District management.
Terry Francke, a lawyer who specializes in open government and free expression, said The District could run into some problems if they attempt to enforce all aspects of the policy.
Under California’s trespass law, Penal Code Section 602.1, solicitors for donations are protected under a statute that exempts persons who are “engaging in activities protected by the California or United States Constitution.”
“They cannot use the trespass, or any other, law to treat as a criminal offense activity that is protected by the First Amendment – speech, interviews, photography – if done in a low-key, unobtrusive manner,” Francke said.
However, Greg Stoffel, a shopping center consultant, said the rules are typical of other shopping centers and are used simply to try and keep the peace.
“If they’re overly protective at first I’m sure they’re just trying to keep it under some form of control,” Stoffel said, adding the key to the policy is how it’s enforced.
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