Police clear out Echo Park Lake swap meet vendors*

Many Echo Park Lake swap meet vendors packed up their wares and folded up their tarps this afternoon as police issued warnings and tickets to those who refused to leave. About a handful of vendors were cited for soliciting on city property in the first-such sweep by police against the Echo Park vendors, said Sgt. Joel Miller with the Rampart Division. Police were there to warn and educate the vendors about the law than to issue citations, Miller said.

“We understand they are trying to make a living,” Miller said. But the park “wasn’t meant to be a swap meet.”

An Echo Park resident posted a comment to this story describing the mass exodus of vendors:

“Immediately upon setting my feet on the park grounds, the sellers were packing up and running away. I have never witnessed such a mass exodus at the park. It was eerie, people grabbing their wares and running into the street … I continued to walk around the park to Glendale Blvd where I saw frantic people driving their vans into the park to expedite the collection of their items. You asked for money, money was everywhere. People were trying to sell items as they were packing them into their vans, bags, u-hauls and other means of transportation.”

Only a few vendors, who have sprawled along much of the northern and eastern edges of the park, were still present at about 4 PM.

Today’s police action comes about a month after representatives from Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office and the City Attorney said the city was powerless to enforce laws to stop the swap meet until a lawsuit brought by vendors and exhibitors in Venice is resolved. The Eastsider is seeking comment from the council officer on today’s enforcement.*

In the northeast corner of the park, one man who was assisting a vendor pack up said they had no choice but to move on. “If the police say we can’t be here, we can’t be here.”

Vendors leave after police arrive

Another man named Robert, who had purchased a table saw earlier in the day from one of the vendors, said the swap meet fills a need for affordable merchandise during a time when many are struggling financially. “That’s why a lot of people come here because they can afford to buy stuff. What else are they going to do?”

Miller said the officers were enforcing section 42.14.1 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which reads in part:

“No person shall seek beg or solicit custom, patronage, sales, alms or donations for himself or on behalf of any person in any manner or for any purpose in any building or in or on any property or premises under the control of this City without the written permission of the head of the department having jurisdiction over the building or grounds where such solicitation is to be made.”

* Update: Councilman Eric Garcetti issued a statement on Monday regarding the police sweep:

“Turning Echo Park into a marketplace forces kids to play in the street. A city like Los Angeles cannot afford to lose what little public green space we have. In a dense, urban community like the one surrounding Echo Park, the need is even greater. This is a neighborhood where backyards are a luxury. Echo Park serves families who have few options where their kids can safely play. My office is working with city departments to protect the park despite litigation that has hampered enforcement. One solution is to step-up enforcement of laws not affected by the pending litigation. This weekend’s action sent a loud and clear signal that we’re going to protect Echo Park for families, not commercial activity. At the same time, in these difficult economic times, we have been working with local non-profits, community development groups, and others to provide technical and other support to help aspiring small business owners establish legitimate businesses, while at the same time protecting public safety, public health and our neighborhood parks.”

Relates posts:
City plans campaign to stop Echo Park Lake swap meet. The Eastsider
Echo Park is not alone when it comes to problems with peddling. The Eastsider
Will going to small claims court stop the Echo Park Lake Swap Meet? The Eastsider


  1. Wow! Didn’t think that was ever going to happen. If you go on Saturdays, you can see these guys posted up to sell the spaces to people for Sunday. There are small ropes anchored to the ground right in front of them, so you can’t miss it.

  2. Selling spaces puts a whole different spin on it, no one has the right to sell space in a public park.

  3. where's the proof?

    sounds like urban myth to me. if you haven’t gone down and “purchased” a space yourself, this is merely conjecture. more likely people driving in from Riverside or something trying to stake out position before the crowd gets there.

  4. Bravo, finally! The park was becoming a real crap hole.

  5. “where’s the proof?” : It was pretty obvious, the ropes were there on the ground and the guys are at the same spot on plastic chairs the past couple of weekends. Another Echo Park resident at July’s EPIA meeting had taken photographs of people in the park at night, and a neighbor was also offered a swap meet space for $20 and $40.

  6. where's the proof?

    “It was pretty obvious, the ropes were there on the ground and the guys are at the same spot on plastic chairs the past couple of weekends.” – so some people sold stuff more than one weekend, and showed up early to stake their claim.

    already been established that people are showing up the night before. “a neighbor said they were offered a swap meet space for $20 and $40.” is also just second hand hearsay. give me some video of money changing hands, or it didn’t happen.

  7. Bravo as well. The park was becoming a total trash heap and people who wanted to use the green space as green space were out of luck. That park serves so many needs, including a rest for weary city eyeballs with its lovely green and water. There must be other places not so pristine for people to spend their money.

    The traffic was stupid, too. And parking. It’s not a shopping mall. If people need a space to sell, maybe they can use a school parking lot like the one just north of Sunset?

  8. Where’s the proof? Well I tried to walk home several Saturdays late in the evening and when I saw the ropes, strings, plastic bags, hangars, yellow tape, and as recently as July 31 brown mailing tape marking the spots. When I approached the obvious markings I was approached by a tall man who asked me “Tienes en Lugar?” I replied no and he waved me on. Prior to this at 5:30 am one Sunday I thought I would go and try my luck at selling and was told for $50 I could have any place I wanted and when I did not like the price I was followed by the man and another man and had to call for assistance. Since I live across the street I frequently walk by the park but lately noticed the people selling got nervous when I walked by as they assumed I was an agent for the authorities. For my own safety it I was told not to go there by myself. I decided today at 3 pm to go for a walk. Immediately upon setting my feet on the park grounds, the sellers were packing up and running away. I have never witnessed such a mass exodus at the park. It was eerie, people grabbing their wares and running into the street. There were so many people I could not tell what was going on so asked a young man what was happening and he replied the police were giving out tickets. Again there were so many people running around I did not see the police till I inched my way through the crowd to Echo Park and Park Ave. Then I saw Sgt Taylor and four other officers making their way through the crowd. I continued to walk around the park to Glendale Blvd where I saw frantic people driving their vans into the park to expedite the collection of their items. You asked for money, money was everywhere. People were trying to sell items as they were packing them into their vans, bags, u-hauls and other means of transportation. I walked back around the park and suddenly it became a park again along Echo Park Ave. OMG I have not seen the park look like a park in months. As I approached the officers from Rampart, I stopped, and thanked them for giving us the park back. As for a video of money changing hands, I can promise to make one for you if I see the vendors back in the park or if I can find one in my camera. Oh and BTW I overheard one of the vendors telling the officers that she used to sell at 6th and Bonnie Brae until the police kicked her out last year then she came to Echo Park.

  9. i live on park ave directly across from the lake. watching the police finally take action and cite vendors was sweet justice finally served. i understand the need for affordable merchandise and wares but the fact of the matter is that all the vendors participating in the swap meet on sundays are doing so ILLEGALLY.

    I would be completely fine with a city supported and city regulated swap meet in the park but this has long since past the point of being a public nuisance. Yesterday there were vendors camped out as early as 4pm getting ready to sell this morning. They were there ALL NIGHT.

    they woke me up at 5am with trucks pulling up to sell everything including the kitchen sink. Ive absolutely had it and its abt time the city took action. Too little too late if you ask me. The cops better come back next week and the week after until people learn you cant just set up shop for free in a public park!

  10. Yes, I am also glad to see something finally happening to discourage vending here. I hope they continue the efforts until the vendors move on. I’ll be glad to see the park return to a park on Sundays. This has been a huge bummer and I feared there was no end in sight. I pictured it covering every square inch of grass, then spreading to Saturdays.

  11. finally! i was walking my dog around the park today around 12 30 and couldnt help but feel like i lived across the street from a third world country. say what you want about people making a living, but keep your squalor to yourselves on your own private property. the park is a precious public resource. it needs not be hijacked every sunday for a church sanctioned swap meet.

  12. Thank you to the LAPD, for keeping LA livable for all.

  13. GOOD JOB LAPD. BAD JOB Councilman Garcetti for not having the political will to enforce the laws. Your office has only made excuses for the last year of what cannot be done to return the park to (all) the people.

  14. I understand if some people have concerns about this swap meet, but truthfully most of the reaction toward it is thinly veiled bigotry. LA is a Latin American city at its core and I, for one, prefer living in a neighborhood which is lively and possesses some sense of community. Sure this swap meet might be illegal, but the economic landscape is pretty dire. People are trying to make do any way they can, but a lot of our community is apparently unwilling to show any compassion toward their neighbors.

    And Glo, you have not seen the park look like that for months, after the “eerie” mass exodus of vendors? I walk around the lake most days and the only time I ever see the vendors out is on Sundays. I think you are greatly exaggerating the situation.

  15. Unfortunately, I work during so cannot avail myself of the park. You are incorrect about the vendors only selling on Sunday. Did you see them Saturday on Echo Park Ave and also on Park Ave. around 3:30 pm? Clothes racks were set up on both sides of park. Not a lot but enough to make a difference. Broken window? Also at 5:30 am on Monday, this one included, There must have been 50 trash bags full of debris leftover from Sunday’s event. At 9am the yellow stake bed truck from Parks and Recreation was filled with the bags. I am not exaggerating, just letting you know what I observe. At times, I have even felt sorry for the people who get off the DASH bus around 2 pm loaded with bags and boxes, looking to find a spot. Unfortunately, the spots have already been sold.

  16. @jamie: good point about compassion. but what nobody seems to have bothered to notice is that there is a reason this thing goes on HERE on SUNDAY morning: the CHURCH. its the flood of parishoners every sunday from God knows where into the park across the street before and after Sunday morning service that provides a good chunk of the patronage for the vendors. perhaps the church could show some compassion and rent a nearby plot/parking lot and offer freebie stalls to the hard up masses, or better yet, sell them like indulgences.

  17. What a relief to see some effort! Thank you Sgt. Joel Miller for stepping up for your community and serving your people. It’s is altogether too depressing to watch what happens to our shared public space every weekend. I don’t think blatantly using our tax paid for park for other peoples financial gain should continue. How would we feel if Nike or McDonalds set up booths to sell their wares there? Allowing this, is essentially allowing anyone to do the same.

    The legal liabilities to the City and ultimately us by allowing it to go on seem more than enough reason for it to be stopped. If Garcetti was working on the problem, it went on quietly. If he wasn’t, it’s a shame he let down the community by turning a blind eye. I understand this is a sensitive and complicated issue, but I hope this is just the beginning of curtailing the swap meet.

    The argument that people need a place to sell things is just a poor excuse for the use of the park. There are plenty of organized swap meets in the area, these vendors just want to avoid any fees or restrictions those swap meets require to be safe and legal. If they need to sell their items somewhere for free, Craigslist works exceptionally well.

  18. I live across the street from the Lake and the swap-meet completely tried my patience.

    The parking was out of control and every single Sunday for the last couple of months, I called the City of LA’s Parking Enforcement because somebody had illegally parked in front of my garage. I’m grateful that Parking Enforcement always came promptly and were very professional. Nobody was every towed. Inevitably, when Parking Official showed up, in their trade-mark white Priuses, one of the vendors or customers would run to their car and move it — but not a minute before then. But, it started to become a little game they played with me. Sometimes, I would come home to find that my garage was blocked and there was absolutely no parking to be had in that neighborhood for miles. So, Parking Enforcement was on my speed-dial. This routine added 30 minutes to every, single one of my Sundays.

    So, to say that I am grateful that the Sunday Swap-meet routine may be over is an under-statement. Still, I want to underscore Jamie’s point, which is the tone of this discussion has sometimes taken an unfortunate turn. It has, at times, become racialized. The last time this issue came up on this blog, somebody compared the lawlessness at the Swapmeet to the problem with the lack of enforcement of immigration laws. Seriously, people, you are going to go down that road?

    Come on. They weren’t selling drugs. They were selling trinkets and junk. And, it was unsightly. And, it made our life miserable on a Sunday (specially mine). But, this is Echo Park. We tolerate a lot and let people live as they wish, until it interferes with our own lives. That his what happened with this swap-meet. We could not use the park as intended and it was nuisance in other ways. But, let’s please stop demonizing the vendors, or the buyers (hey, I almost bought a bike there yesterday). In the scope of human crimes, it was pretty minor. Very unpleasant, but minor. Let’s be constructive about the issue and keep the tone civil.

  19. LA is a city now held hostage by the extreme liberal left and the “rights” of the economically depressed lower classes. We must apologize for enforcing the law by saying “I understand that poor people have to buy and consume things too, BUT.” Gimme a break. Do we really have to appease an entire group of people who don’t abide by our laws just because of the fear of being sued? Get a life LA!

  20. Dear Angry Angeleno:

    For many, many years, your “anger” ran this City and indeed this State. I remember those times well. They were not good time. It was an ugly, awful time. Remember the riots? Remember Pete Wilson? Remember Darryl Gates? I was not a fan. Gates and Wilson were angry men, very angry men. So were those rioters. I was not a fan of the rioters either. And after much soul-searching and hand-wringing, we (this City, this neighborhood) came into a better place. It was not easy to get here. So, I don’t appreciate any attempt to take us back.

    Personally, I don’t find anger to be helpful, especially now. We do not have the rampant crime (and poverty) we had the 90’s. We are a much, much better City. Sure, we have our problems, but I’ll take our current problems over a high murder-rate and Darryl Gates-style policing any day, … any day.

  21. “Angry Angeleno”
    Wow how does someone like you still live in Los Angeles, let alone Echo Park?
    FYI Virginia there’s is a white fairytale land out there for you, it’s called Arizona, you should move to it.

    PS The city wasn’t ‘hijacked’ by evil ungodly liberals, they were voted in by a majority, which I guess makes people like you who sit around all day making ‘Obama = Hitler’ signs, the oppressed minority.
    Power to the People, lol.

  22. Logan Street resident

    Thank goodness. I am so tired of not being able to park anywhere near my apartment on Sundays and Monday morning coming outside to see tons of trash in the street. I love the park and stopped being able to go there on one of my few days off even though its only a few 100 feet away from my door. Im only sorry I didnt get to see the people running away with all their junk. You would have to live right next to the park to know what a headache this has been for everyone there.

  23. Double Standards

    You guys are just upset because nobody there sells organic vegan cupcakes or local handcrafted fare that caters to your demographic.

  24. If it would of been a bunch of “hipsters” selling there lame art. cops would of never cared.but when a latino trys to sell things for a living its always a issue huh!

  25. angelo–fyi For about 2-3 months there has been a presence of Asian people selling items. I have also seen from the beginning different races selling items at the park. One thing I did notice that when a few Asian people tried to put their blankets down to show their items, they were told to go away by the Hispanic sellers.

  26. I live across from the park and have seen the swap meet grow every Sunday for the past several months. Parking has become a nightmare and the trash on Sunday night is unreal. The park should be available to all in the neighborhood to enjoy and not people selling their goods to earn a few extra bucks.

    I applaud the police for finally putting a stop to this I really hope they keep enforcing the law.

  27. While the LAPD is at it, clean up all the noise and hipster trash coming and going to the Shortstop on Thurs thru Sat nights. Sutherland and streets nearing the bar has been overtaken by late night drunks with piss and trash. There’s not enough street parking for residents. This has been going on for the last couple years. Bust the illegal swapmeet, fine–now do something about these drunken hipsters who has no regards for residents as they yell, laugh, scream and ruining our quality of life.

    I’ve called time and time again and nothing’s ever been done by LAPD or by anyone from the city for permit parking.

    I have videos and footages from the last four years of all the hipster nonsense.

  28. Sorry Angelo, I’m not going to let you get away with that. I am Brown. And, I’ve lived in and around this neighborhood (the EP Lake) for almost 20 years. I’ve seen this neighborhood through many ups and downs and (for that reason) vendors, generally, don’t bother me. To some extent, they are part of the “vibe” here. But this was not a few vendors selling elotes and peeled nopalitos (all of which I buy, by the way). During the last three months, this went from a few vendors selling DVDs and used clothes to the largest swap-meet I’ve ever seen outside of the South-East cities. This past Sunday *ALL* the greenspace was covered with tarps and trinkets.

    So maybe you don’t have any sympathy for me, because admittedly, I have a designated garage, if somebody was blocking my garage (and somebody always was on a Sunday), I would call Parking Enforcement and got the car towed. But, my neighbors (Mexicans and Central Americans) don’t have that option. As you may know, many of the small cottages here don’t have garages or parking strips and NONE of the apartment buildings (of which there are many) have any either. So many of the other Brown people in this neighborhood have to park somewhere in Temple Beverly and take the Dash bus to their house. Kind of a hassle, don’t you think? Ask them if they like the swap-meet taking over the Lake every Sunday.

    And yeah, the swap-meet was (like EP) pretty multicultural. Everybody and their grand-ma got in on the action, including hipsters, Asians, etc. Everybody whom you would expect, and some whom you wouldn’t.

  29. And, by the way, was this the same Angelo who admitted (in an earlier post) to pissing on other people’s lawns in Echo Park? Classy, … You seem like a civic-minded individual who really cares about the quality of life in this neighborhood. You must be so proud. Way to make our people look good, …quality guy that you are.

  30. Cl if you are brown.then you are a white wash p.o.s

  31. theres plenty of space to sell goods besides the park why do you have to clutter the park? pass out fliers to a big flea market parking lot sale ..ps do you know what you do to the ducks birds and water turtles ! ashame you must feel ashame the trees are sighing

  32. BRAVO….!!!!! FINALLY Illegal vendors are out of control in the city. They are everywhere and sometimes become hostile, aggressive, and antagonistic towards officers. Take a drive through Boyle Heights, downtown LA, MacArthur Park and they are everywhere. There is a 13% unemployment rate in Los Angeles, but you don’t see legal residents blatantly breaking the law. These illegal vendors have enough money to hire attorneys and in some cases had restraining orders put out on police officers. They are greedy and make as much as over $1,400 per day tax free. I don’t feel sorry for them because they are not the victims being portrayed. They have trashed our city. They should fine each one over $200 and that will stop the problem

  33. I just want to thank Glo for the informative, eyewitness comments from the point of view of a proud Echo Park resident, without all the vitriol.

  34. The following is my personal opinion and not intended to speak on behalf of any particular persons or departments of the city of Los Angeles.

    First I would like to acknowledge that the majority of the vendors are nice, otherwise law-abiding people who are only trying to make a living. They come to where the most customers are and where money can be made. I have just as much compassion for them as I do the tax-paying citizens that own, rent and work in the area. I also acknowledge that customers are just looking for affordable merchandise.

    With that said, here’s is just a partial list of the PROBLEMS that have become abundant with the out-of-control vending at the park (and elsewhere):
    Little to no green space left for enjoyment of the park for leisure and recreation
    Lots of trash and rubbish unpicked up
Broken glass, nails, and tacks left in the grass
    Stolen property sold by some vendors
    Other vendors and gangster Extorting vendors to “rent” space
    No health control for food vendors leading sickness
    Unsafe burning of barbecues leading to fire hazards
    Unfair to local business paying for permits and taxes.
    No Parking for local residents and park visitors
    Etc. etc. etc.

    The Park is not the answer though. It is the wrong forum (other than the occasional permitted fair or festival). Nor are the public sidewalks. Possible SOLUTIONS might include looking into the use of local parking lots (public and/or private). There are also several swap meet venues throughout the area and city.

    If I could address one issue that irks me more than anything else, it is the constant diatribe about how this is a racial issue and how enforcement of the law is some how an act of bigotry. I would submit to you that the color of skin etc, makes no difference in the ENFORCEMENT of the law. But legal status does. Is it the same thing? NO. The fact is that if the violators (regardless of skin color, ethnicity, race, etc. ad naseum) had legal identification we could simply hold them accountable by writing them a citation.

    However, in my vast experience of nearly a decade in the Mac Arthur Park & Echo Park area – the majority of vendors do not have identification (those same violators most often also happen to be Latino/ Hispanic). Thus they can not be issued a citation. This is a policy of law enforcement, because there is no way to determine the person is who they say they are. Any any subsequent legal action in court would not hold up.

    So that means officers must physically book violators in order to get fingerprints, photos and an identification number for that person. At this time the citations also require a report and miscellaneous paper work. So the process is lengthy and cumbersome. Most officer do not want to take this much time over what seem to be minor violations. Add to this the great numbers (hundreds) of violators, and the police simply do not have the resources to enforce the violations.

    In short what I am saying is that it only seems that Latino/Hispanic person are being targeted; but in REALITY you are more likely to be cited and held accountable if you are not Hispanic /Latino, because you are more likely to have legal documentation. The illegal (or undocumented, if you prefer) community has taken advantage of the situation, and that is why the problem has grown out of control. Because they are NOT being cited, arrested etc. What is most frustrating is the audacity that this subsection of the community has when they are arrested. Trust me, with the limited resources the City has, you are not very likely to get arrested for minor violations unless you have been repeatedly warned or cited first, or unless you just have a bad attitude.

    With that said. Last Sunday, the vendors that where at scene were very understanding and polite (with the exception a few). Thank you for your cooperation, and I hope that vendors can find an alternative location to conduct business, while the local property owners and visitors can enjoy a clean and serene park, a place to escape the urban sprawl of the city.

  35. Congratulations to Councilman Garcetti. Now if only Councilman Huizar would follow his lead.

  36. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Rampart police officers who FINALLY tackled this eyesore.
    They did a fantastic job-while more than likely dealing with much hostility.
    I just wonder why it took over 1 1/2 years to garner their attention, and really take some action?

  37. All I have to say is that maybe now they can rent spaces legally on the 3rd Sunday of every month at Glendale College. It’s only $2.00 for parking and you spend all day looking around at everything and get alot of exercise too from the walking. No more eyesore!!!!

  38. Are you kidding me, what the hell is wrong with some of you, where in this situation do you think that it was worng to shut donwn an illegal operation. Thats someone park, someones community, someone right to enjoy the area. ? I was born raised and lived in la almost all my life and all i can say is, everyone blames the reccession causing people to result in selling merchandise illegally get real people I have been around all this since i was barely tall enough to reach the sink. Its an excuse becasue they dont want to do things the right way. either its too costly or they dont have the proper paperwork. I live very close to echo park and please dont preach about LA being a hispanic based community because you are so wrong. La is a very large county and consist of many diversed ethnicities. Which I dont know how that was even relevant. What made you think any one has the right to rent space out on behalf of someone elses propety. WOW…. Thats like some stranger renting my house to another stranger. Listen I live in Az now and I myself am I swapmeet vendor 3 days a week yearly. I pay my dues to a very well respected facility that legally hold these swapmeets regularly. I pay nearly 800 a month to rent two spaces. I have a legal contract and a legal retail and sales tax liscense and i pay my taxes monthly. And I wouldnt have it any other way. I hate to pay taxes, but I do so that i can leagally make a living. So lets not start mouthing about things you think you know

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