Nearly every weekday morning found Armando Cerrutte crouched next to the Echo Park Newsstand, a green and white wooden box packed with Spanish and English newspapers and magazines. Cerrutte would rise as regular customers approached his box on Echo Park Avenue near Sunset Boulevard to hand them their paper after it had been creased and folded. Even one of the Dash bus drivers would pull over so that Cerrutte could hop on board to deliver a paper. But, in mid December, after about 10 years in business, Cerrutte stopped showing up, leaving without a goodbye to the workers at the nearby Los Burritos stand. It turns out Cerrutte had been forced to close after the city began a survey of newsstands, forcing those owners who failed to carry the required insurance or meet other city codes to close. “I’m looking for [another] site,” said Cerrutte, who now works night at a coin laundry next to the Echo Park Domino’s Pizza. But, “there are no other sites.”
Cerrutte was not the only Echo Park news vendor forced to close by the Department of Public Works, which oversees newsstand regulations and issues permits. Another stand near the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado was carted off, leaving only an outline in the sidewalk. The owner, a woman named Paula, arrived one morning to find the box gone, said nearby shop owner Maria Roque, who knew the newsstand owner. “They told her she couldn’t be there” and needed insurance.
The two wooden newsstands have been neighborhood fixtures for decades. Roque said her father opened a newsstand on the northwest corner of Alvarado and Sunset about 19 years ago before it was relocated twice and then sold to the woman named Paula, who ended up in front of La Popular furniture. Back on Echo Park Avenue, Cerrutte’s tiny Echo Park Newsstand box is all that remains of a once larger stand that stretched along the wall of what is now a medical clinic and dentist office.
Richard Lee, a spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said in an email that inspectors “are currently surveying the entire City for newsstands and we ask those outside [the downtown area] to voluntarily obtain a no fee permit.” All newsstand owners must buy insurance and comply with numerous regulations that dictate size (free standing boxes can’t be more than five-feet high, six-feet wide and three-feet deep), location (can’t be across from another newsstand) and placement (at least six-feet of sidewalk must remain between the newsstand and parkway or curb).
Inspectors determined that the Sunset and Alvarado newsstand was out of compliance and had it removed. As for Cerrutte’s stand, Lee said his department is “working with the owner to move the newsstand to another location due to numerous violations associated with its present placement.”
Cerrutte, however, says he has not been able to find a nearby location that meets the city’s requirements. He also says the $650 needed to buy a year’s worth of insurance is too much for him. Business had been bad, and he was selling perhaps 80 newspapers a day. Last night, as he watched TV and swept the floors of the empty laundry, the 59-year-old Peruvian immigrant passed along a message to his former customers:
“Don’t worry for me. I’m good.”