It was only a year ago that Echo Park Lake was the scene out of a large Sunday swap meet, with city officials saying that the municipal law prohibiting such sales had been suspended in connection with a lawsuit. LAPD officers were finally able to eject the vendors but only after threatening to use a state law requiring seller permits. This morning, a City Council’s Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee approved a proposed municipal ordinance intended to once again give the Recreation and Parks Department the ability to restrict sales of private merchandise and services on parkland. Anyone seeking to sell property or services would have to first get a permit unless their items were “inextricably intertwined with the seller’s religious, political, philosophical or ideological message,” according a draft of the ordinance.
An earlier ordinance that restricted selling in parks was suspended after a lawsuit brought by vendors and exhibitors in Venice. Some of those vendors claimed that city law infringed on their first amendment rights by prohibiting sales of buttons, artwork and other items espousing political or idealogical messages.
Other vendors took advantage of that suspension to set up a swap meet at Echo Park Lake and sell merchandise at other city parks. In addition to selling merchandise, someone was able to begin a private dog obedience school at Norman O. Houston Park without having to ask for city approval.
The proposed ordinance now goes to the full City Council for a final vote.