Lim­its on selling at parks and beaches are poised to be re­in­stated

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Emily Alpert Reyes

In re­cent years, peo­ple who hawked ice cream or hot dogs, taught yoga or sold other goods and ser­vices in Los An­ge­les parks were ef­fec­tively in the clear.

Selling their wares on city side­walks was banned. But the city had sus­pended sim­i­lar rules pro­hibit­ing vend­ing in parks and beaches when the is­sue be­came en­tan­gled in two law­suits.

Now those le­gal bat­tles are over and L.A. law­mak­ers are poised to pun­ish un­per­mit­ted park and beach vend­ing once again. The City Coun­cil voted Tues­day to draw up a fresh set of rules, im­pos­ing es­ca­lat­ing fines and even mis­de­meanor charges against ven­dors who ply their trade at parks and beaches with­out get­ting city per­mis­sion.

The de­ci­sion am­pli­fied the en­dur­ing de­bate over the virtues and prob­lems of street vend­ing in Los An­ge­les. This time around, the de­bate pit­ted those who see mo­bile vend­ing as an eco­nomic life­line vi­tal to a di­verse and thriv­ing me­trop­o­lis against oth­ers wor­ried about the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of green space and the le­gal risk for the city in al­low­ing un-

li­censed en­ter­prise.

As law­mak­ers re­vive the re­stric­tions at parks and beaches, city lead­ers are still wrestling with the larger ques­tion of how to reg­u­late what are es­ti­mated to be tens of thou­sands of ven­dors who make their liv­ing on L.A. side­walks, rou­tinely play­ing a cat-and-mouse game with lo­cal po­lice. Lo­cal ac­tivists push­ing to le­gal­ize the push­carts that speckle L.A. side­walks ar­gued it made lit­tle sense to re­in­state the ban in parks and beaches while city lead­ers pon­dered al­low­ing side­walk vend­ing city­wide.

“It’s short-sighted,” said Joseph Vil­lela, di­rec­tor of pol­icy and ad­vo­cacy for the Coali­tion for Hu­mane Im­mi­grant Rights of Los An­ge­les. “It con­tin­ues to do some­thing that hasn’t worked.”

The de­ci­sion also trou­bled some on the coun­cil, which voted 13 to 2 to draft a city or­di­nance re­in­stat­ing the re­stric­tions. Coun­cil­man Gil Cedillo ar­gued that pun­ish­ing re­peat vi­o­la­tors with mis­de­meanor charges could end up jeop­ar­diz­ing im­mi­grants’ chances to be­come cit­i­zens.

“Selling pale­tas — those are pop­si­cles — selling pale­tas at a park should not carry a penalty that bars you from cit­i­zen­ship,” Cedillo told fel­low coun­cil mem­bers.

Back­ers such as Coun­cil­man Joe Bus­caino said that the re­in­stated rules would pro­tect the city from be­ing sued if some­one was hurt or sick­ened by the wares or ser­vices sold by un­li­censed park ven­dors. “Say some­one gets hurt dur­ing an un­per­mit­ted yoga class, who would be li­able?” Bus­caino asked Se­nior As­sis­tant City Atty. Va­lerie Flores.

“Ar­guably, the city could be sued,” Flores said.

Ban­ning un­per­mit­ted vend­ing could help de­fend the city from such suits, Flores said. If the city did not have the op­tion to charge re­peat of­fend­ers with a mis­de­meanor, she told law­mak­ers, ven­dors might con­tinue ply­ing their busi­ness in parks and sim­ply pay the fines as a “cost of do­ing busi­ness.”

Be­yond wor­ries about le­gal li­a­bil­ity, oth­ers ar­gued that parks are a kind of ur­ban sanc­tu­ary that should be free from com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity. L.A.’s mu­nic­i­pal pro­hi­bi­tion on park and beach vend­ing was sus­pended nearly a decade ago amid le­gal bat­tles over vend­ing and free speech on the Venice Beach board­walk.

Parks of­fi­cials and po­lice said that in the years that L.A. has gone with­out the re­stric­tions, it has been im­pos- sible to stop peo­ple from do­ing busi­ness in parks and beaches, in­clud­ing ex­er­cise classes blar­ing mu­sic in Sil­ver Lake Meadow, a ven­dor of­fer­ing pony rides at Hansen Dam, and peo­ple spread­ing out blan­kets to shill their wares around Echo Park Lake.

City lawyers said now that the le­gal bat­tles that first spurred the city to sus­pend the ban are over, it was time for the city to re­in­state the re­stric­tions in parks and beaches, re­vis­ing the word­ing to clearly pro­tect free­dom of speech. Un­der the rules, selling goods or ser­vices in a public park would be illegal un­less the ven­dor got city per­mis­sion to do so. How­ever, it would be le­gal for some­one to sell books or paint­ings that he or she has writ­ten or cre­ated, as well as chief ly “ex­pres­sive items” such as news­pa­pers or bumper stick­ers.

Flores ar­gued that the newly re­in­stated ban would not un­der­cut any broader plan to le­gal­ize and reg­u­late side­walk vend­ing, since ven­dors could get per­mis­sion to work in parks or beaches via a city li­cense or per­mit. If the city did not re­in­state the ban, Flores said, ven­dors would have no rea­son to seek a per­mit.

But mem­bers of the Los An­ge­les Street Ven­dor Cam­paign ar­gued that the parks depart­ment lacks a clear, widely un­der­stood sys­tem to grant per­mits to park ven­dors. The ex­ist­ing pro­cesses for al­low­ing park vend­ing are geared more to­ward large con­ces­sions, such as the boathouse cafe at Echo Park Lake, than in­di­vid­ual ped­dlers push­ing mo­bile carts.

“It’s not ac­ces­si­ble to the com­mu­nity,” said Janet Favela, a com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer with the East LA Com­mu­nity Corp.

If the ban is ul­ti­mately re­in­stated, “I would prob­a­bly be home­less,” said Deb­o­rah Hyman, a ven­dor who sells beaded jew­elry in Leimert Park, be­fore the hear­ing. “This is my in­come. I need it.”

At­tor­neys are now tasked with draft­ing the city rules, which are ex­pected to re­turn to the coun­cil for ap­proval later this week. L.A. lead­ers pressed for­ward with the plan amid yet another le­gal fight over vend­ing: The city was sued ear­lier this year by the In­ter­na­tional So­ci­ety for Kr­ishna Con­scious­ness, a re­li­gious group that al­leged the parks depart­ment stonewalled its re­quest for per­mis­sion to sell T-shirts out­side the Grif­fith Ob­ser­va­tory and then rel­e­gated it to a small area.

Rob Wil­cox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said set­tle­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing in that suit.

‘Selling pale­tas … at a park should not carry a penalty that bars you from cit­i­zen­ship.’

—Gil Cedillo,

city coun­cil­man

Anne Cu­sack Los An­ge­les Times

THE COUN­CIL voted to im­pose fines against un­per­mit­ted ven­dors at parks and beaches. Above, ven­dors on Al­varado Street in 2014.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

STREET VEN­DOR CARI­DAD VASQUEZ joins other ven­dors at a news con­fer­ence in front of LAPD head­quar­ters in March to de­mand an end to po­lice ha­rass­ment.

Christina House For The Times

A STREET VEN­DOR sells ice cream to cus­tomers in down­town Los An­ge­les in 2014. The City Coun­cil ruled Tues­day to be­gin im­pos­ing es­ca­lat­ing fines and mis­de­meanor charges against beach and park ven­dors.

Anne Cu­sack Los An­ge­les Times

MAR­LON JOHN­SON sells books on Al­varado Street in Los An­ge­les in 2014. Ban­ning un­per­mit­ted vend­ing could help de­fend the city from li­a­bil­ity, some say.

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