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Sidewalk Vendors Say They’re Being Harassed For Setting Up Outside LACC Swap Meet

Multiple people dig through piles of colorful clothing wearing masks. A large rack of clothing is in the back.
People dig through piles of clothing at the L.A. City College swap meet.
(Courtesy of Wolf Kroeger)
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When the pandemic shut down the L.A. City College swap meet, several vendors moved to the sidewalk on Vermont Avenue. When the swap meet reopened in August, many opted not to return to the campus to avoid paying the booth fee.

Community Power Collective organizer Sergio Jimenez says vendors can make more money selling on the sidewalk than inside the swap meet. Street vendors have also been an integral part of the East Hollywood neighborhood where L.A. City College is located. But the area's historic links to vending are being challenged by people like the swap meet's new operator Phillip Dane, who Jimenez says is gentrifying the neighborhood as a result

“We started hearing a lot of negativity and attacking vendors, placing vendors within, like, ‘illegal vendors’ and ‘legal vendors,’” Jimenez said. “Even though a lot of vendors that have been on Vermont have their permits.”

Jimenez accuses Dane of sending emails to outside vendors saying sidewalks will be power washed during swap meet hours. Dane denies that. He says he's never harassed any vendors and has significantly cut the daily booth fee. It's currently $50 but will soon be going up to $65.

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Dane insists he's out to save the swap meet and keep long-time vendors from getting displaced. Some of the vendors inside the swap meet argue the sidewalk sellers are undermining their business and Dane agrees.

"If I own a pizza shop, and a guy set up selling pizza right in front of my pizza shop, is that okay? Of course not," he said.

But outside vendor Margarita Gutierrez says they're just trying to survive.

“Que nos dejen vender afuera porque no estamos robando, no estamos haciéndole daño a nadie, estamos nada más ganando el pan de cada día de nosotros,” she said. (“Let us sell outside because we're not robbing, we're not hurting anyone, we're just trying to make enough to eat.”)

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Dane contends the sidewalk vendors are not allowed to sell so close to the college.

Jimenez argues they have sidewalk vending permits that allow them to be there. He says vendors want to meet with Dane and college officials to try to find a way to end the conflict.

Dane says there's nothing more to talk about, and that the sidewalk vendors can either join the swap meet or move farther away.

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