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L.A. City Council REALLY Doesn't Want Stuff Being Sold At Beaches And Parks

Opponents of the ban say it's unfair to immigrants and low-income entrepreneurs (Photo by Calvin Fleming via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Los Angeles voted yesterday to restore a ban on vending without a permit in parks and beaches. L.A. City Council voted 12-3 to reinstate a ban on vending in city-owned parks and beaches without a permit, according to the L.A. Times. This follows a June decision to draft a set of rules that would impose fines and potential charges on beach and park vendors operating without a permit. This sort of vending includes food, wares, classes and services—so hot dogs, fruit, sunglasses, yoga classes and other fun stuff. Consequences for continuing to sell without first securing permission from the City would include a $100 fine for the first time, and a $250 fine and a possible misdemeanor for the second time. Because the vote was not unanimous, there will be a second vote later, City News Service reports.

Vending on sidewalks is already banned, though activists have been pushing for legalization. The ban on vending in parks and beaches was suspended after legal battles between the City and Venice Beach vendors, which City attorneys say have since been resolved. The new rules do allow vendors to sell items they have personally made—such as art, books or recordings—as well as "expressive" items, like bumper stickers.

Advocates of putting the ban back in place said that the ban would protect the City from getting sued by anyone who was hurt by a dangerous or uninsured vendors. Kevin Regan, assistant general manager for the Parks Department said that without the ban, there has been "a state of lawlessness in the park." He said the ban wasn't targeting "mom and pop" vendors, but mentioned a guy who sells pony rides in Hansen Dam in the San Fernando Valley.

"He drives in with a truck and trailer, he offloads the ponies, he offers pony rides. No insurance, no permits, no regulation, no inspection, no way for the department to ensure that the ponies are well cared for, that they're safe, that the saddles are safe, that the ride is safe, that the location is safe. We have no oversight whatsoever, and we have absolutely no enforcement ability to stop this individual,'' Regan said.

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Regan had also previously been concerned with people who set up swap meets and food vendors who set up shop "right in front of legitimate concessionaires," according to KPCC. Councilman Mitch O'Farrell gave an example of a pit bull trainer in South L.A. who was operating without a permit.

Not everyone is a fan of the ban. Councilmembers Gil Cedillo, Jose Huizar and Curren Price voted against reinstating the ban. Cedilla said that the ban could potentially hurt immigrants who are seeking eventual citizenship.

"The city is about to go forward and say that if you're caught selling popsicles in the park, you can be denied citizenship for the rest of your life," he said. Others argue that the ban if unfair for those who rely on the income.

While the City has argued that people could still vend if they'd just get a permit, that's not always possible. Some parks and beaches won't issue permits to certain kinds of vendors, and smaller vendors may face challenges while trying to get legal.

Cedillo argued that the City should focus on what specific types of vending they don't want. "If you don't want the pit bull training, then say that in this proposal," he said.

Mike Dennis of the East L.A. Community Corporation, a street vendor advocacy group, told City News Service that the ban would be "really disastrous for the vending community," which he said is predominantly made up of "low-income entrepreneurs." The group has been vocal in posts on their Facebook page about the topic.

LACityHall is sending the WRONG message to the vendor community. How can you expect ‪#‎LAStreetVendors‬ to believe you will engage in a serious discussion around citywide legalization when you're actually pitching further criminalization as a short term "solution"? City Council - we'll see you back at city hall on August 5th where this draconian law will be re-considered. Here are the facts: Parks and Rec have a concession system that is totally inaccessible to the vendor community; there is no concrete plan to separate real street vendors from boot camps, yoga classes, and other "cash cows" that are supposedly the target of this ordinance; this ordinance will give police MORE POWER to attack our most economically vulnerable populations; as of today, NO citywide sidewalk vending framework has been approved, yet some on council and in the Parks dept speak of a citywide plan as if its already been created - all the while, street vendors have not been asked how they feel.

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