In San Juan Capistrano, a heated battle has been raging between city planning commission and an unlikely duo — a woman and her dinosaur.
Carolyn Franks, owner of the Zoomars Petting Zoo in the historic Los Rios district, found that the pint-sized visitors to her zoo loved finding things in the gold and gem-panning sluice feature at her zoo. She wanted to incorporate something prehistoric and exploratory for her young visitors, and was told that a certain dinosaur statue was coming up for auction at a furniture warehouse in Anaheim.
"There were a bunch of crazy prices flying around that the dinosaur was worth everything from $30,000 to $100,000," said Franks on Take Two. "But I actually got him for $12,000 on a $1,000 a month finance plan…I couldn't resist that offer. So for $12,000 I bought a dinosaur."
The 40-foot-long, 13-foot-high fiberglass dinosaur was disassembled, so putting the towering creature back together took a couple of days. By the time the dinosaur was almost complete, Franks got a cease-and-desist letter from the city, ordering her to stop construction.
"A couple of city trucks pulled up and it was quite a scene, they were out there with official gear and clipboards. I thought there were drugs in the dinosaur! I couldn't imagine why," said Franks. "This city official came over and he gives me this piece of paper with this big stop sign on it: cease-and-desist. Underneath it said, 'Unpermitted Brontosaurus.'"
The reaction from the city came from a complaint filed by the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee, a group that ensures the maintenance of the historic Los Rios district. They argue that the prehistoric apatosaurus is inconsistent with the 230-year-old history of the area. In other words, the dinosaur was too old and didn't have a right to be there.
"Some of the work that they do is good, but I thought, 'Really? You're making all of this fuss over a plastic dinosaur for kids?' said Franks. "What a great educational thing for kids to learn about dinosaurs."
Franks applied for a conditional use permit to keep the dinosaur in a special area of the zoo specifically addressing the evolution of animals from prehistoric times to the present.
However, after fighting for months to keep the statue, the planning commission, with the exception of two commissioners, voted to have the dinosaur evicted once again.
A copy of the cease and desist letter: