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Street vendors ask mayor to suspend park vending rules

LOS ANGELES — Street vending activists were joined at City Hall Sept. 10 by about 10 children whose parents sell wares at parks and on sidewalks to call on Mayor Eric Garcetti to suspend a newly adopted city law that will make it illegal to sell wares, food and services at parks in Los Angeles starting at the end of the month.

Representatives of Union del Barrio and the East Los Angeles Community Corporation, along with the mostly high-school-aged children, demanded a meeting with Garcetti personally, but were greeted instead by the mayor’s staff.

Sixteen-year-old Janet Aguilar said during the meeting that her father often loses his merchandise and must pay fines when he is pulled over by the police.

“Without selling anything, we don’t have money,” Aguilar said. “Without money, we can’t pay the tickets.

“We live off of what he works on,” she added. “How are we supposed to eat, pay rent and get all these supplies for school or things that we need?”

The law prohibiting vending at parks goes into effect Sept. 27, but the children, along with activists and attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild said that with a legal, street vendor permitting process yet to be developed, vendors could soon be fined and cited for misdemeanor crimes and their livelihoods potentially put at risk.

Linda Lopez, the mayor’s chief of immigrant affairs, said she had already met with members of a coalition to legalize street vending, and they had already agreed to meet with them on Oct. 6 to discuss the permitting policy.

“So for us we look at this as an opportunity to come together to really think through what that workable solution is,” Lopez said.

Cynthia Anderson-Barker, a National Lawyers Guild attorney working with the street vending activists, pushed back, saying that the meeting will come “too late,” because it takes place after the vending prohibition goes into effect.

“I’m dealing with people every day who are getting thousands of dollars in tickets and fines. What about that problem? What about a moratorium?” she said.

Mayoral spokeswoman Connie Llanos assured the group that steps are being taken to develop the permitting policy.

When the park vending prohibition was adopted, “there was also a policy to ensure that there was a permitting policy being created by Rec and Parks, so we understand that that is also working through the channels, as we’re looking to do a citywide policy,” she said.

“So the mayor’s goal is to ensure that we have a citywide policy that allows people to be a part of the economy, support your families,” Llanos said.

George O. Kolombatovich, deputy counsel to Garcetti, added that he thinks “it’s fair to say there’s not going to be people suddenly getting misdemeanor charges” when the law goes into effect.

“I don’t foresee anything substantially changing on the 27th. I would certainly talk to the police department about that,” he said.

The mayor’s staff also asked the group to refer any enforcement issues to city officials.

The Los Angeles City Council earlier this summer moved to restore a ban on the unpermitted sale of wares, food and services in city parks and beaches.

Street vending is already prohibited on sidewalks, but the parks ban had been suspended due to legal challenges, which have since been resolved, city attorneys said at the time.

The park vending ban would allow the city to impose a $100 fine for the first offense. The second offense would warrant a $250 fine and a potential misdemeanor charge.

City recreation and parks officials told the council the law would give them the ability to take enforcement action against vendors that operate unsafely and without permits at parks.

Kevin Regan, with the Department of Recreation and Parks, told the council at the time that the prohibition is not necessarily aimed at the “mom and pop” pushcart vendors that can often be seen at parks selling ice cream, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and fruit.

The park vending ban is instead aimed at businesses that operate without proper safeguards, such as a pony ride operator without insurance or that have not undergone the proper inspections.

“We have no oversight whatsoever, and we have absolutely no enforcement ability to stop this individual,” he said.

Councilman Gil Cedillo, who voted against the ordinance, said the law would hurt immigrant vendors.

“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.

“To me, that’s simply a cost too high for the crime. It’s just that fundamental, and so I cannot vote for this.”

Cedillo added that the ordinance should be more specific on what types of vendors it targets.

 

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