City seeks to regain control over vending in parks

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.


  1. amy sather smith

    killjoys. i loved the echo park sunday swap meet, it was a great way to spend the day in the park with your neighbors. kind of like a block party garage sale. i gathered it was an essential source of supplemental income for many of the vendors.

    what exactly was the problem? city unable to tax those $1 sales? ugh.

  2. You know what? Good. I know I’m gonna get some flack for this comment but whatever. I’m sick of this whiny sh!t. If I wanted to sell something on a regular basis you’d better believe I’d have all my permits in order– as it is the damn law! Plus buying from these illegal vendors does no help your local community in that they do not pay taxes on what they make from the sales. If these people want to continue selling their crap, I suggest they do it in their front yards/garages where it is not infringing on the space that I DO pay taxes to help keep clean.

  3. Right on Lauren!

  4. I’ll chime in easy here — the park should be for park uses, strolling, relaxing, jogging, fishing, photography, love. A place where a friendly goose story can happen.

    Really, the marketing should not be there.

  5. Ditto Lauren. Park space is a premium in this city retail is not. Perhaps Angelus Temple as a church which in theory has a “higher calling to help people in need” can open their parking lot to these folks if they are in need. Parks should be a place of refuge not a place for profits…no matter the scale.

  6. I would be curious to know how many of you opposed to folks selling their wares in the Echo Park once a week actually frequent the park for those activities you claim it should be reserved for. I visit the park 3-4 times a week for “strolling, relaxing, jogging, fishing, photography, love”. I have no problem with the community vendors. I enjoy the color and life and diversity that they bring to the park. I’ve purchased some treasured items on those lawns and met some lovely souls under the pretense of “rogue capitalism”. They are usually accompanied by groups of people grilling, playing soccer and enjoying the day. Feels more like what a park is for than the uptight ordinance-thumping bougie would like to see.

    While we’re at it should we crack down on the popsicle vendors? Bacon wrapped hotdog lady? Balloon on a stick fellow? How about your friendly neighborhood spicy fruit guy?

    Taxes! Permits! Laws!


  7. I live right next to Echo park lake and use it most days for “strolling, relaxing, jogging, fishing, photography, love”. I particularly love the buzz, color and community vibe of the park on Sundays and I often get a small thrill out of claiming my 50c and $1 keepsakes on my stroll around. I have no problem with people quietly selling their random bits and pieces once a week (just as I don’t have a problem with yard-sellers doing the same). They are certainly not preventing any of you from using the park in any way (if you visited the park on Sundays you would know that), and they are certainly not they taking business away from anyone! The comments from those opposed to these sellers ignorant and perhaps even offensive.

  8. Humanity? Yes, all for it. But as the above picture so perfectly illustrates, the “color, life and diversity” that the sellers bring got way out of hand, not just adding spice to the park, but becoming the whole meal. If there were a hot dog guy here, a few lamps for sale there, it wouldn’t be an issue. What is an issue is the inevitable slippery slope of allowing a few vendors, then a few more the next week, then a few more the next, allowing the park to devolve into a weekend flea market.* If I had to chose between allowing these isolated instances of “rogue capitalism” or banning them outright, I think they’ve got to go.

    *Not everything is a class struggle.

  9. Right on Lauren and Alexis! Everyone resides somewhere and is more than welcome to yard sale their wares in front of their homes or head over to an actual swap meet.

    I don’t care if I get flack either, because if I wanted to experience a clustercuss of vendors, I’d go to an actual community swap meet, or a mall. I’ll take the peace, the sunshine, and a goosey love story over that any day (even though the goose now technically lives at the zoo).

    I bet MacArthur Park and the surrounding area east of it started out as something beautiful, but sadly has evolved into trash-filled streets and a swap meet existence, overrun by cheap, imported crap oozing out of every orifice.

  10. Opposition to the sale is in no way “ignorant” or perhaps “offensive”, just a reasonable point of view. And I think comparing people taking up space in a public place and making money for themselves to “yard-sellers” is apples and oranges. See, more often than not a yard sale takes place on private property, and usually doesn’t cluster together so tightly taking up every available parking space for a few blocks.

    And by referencing the above picture again, tell me how pleasant a jog or walk around the park would be with the sidewalk obstructed so often by sellers and shoppers alike.

    I would like to see those who are in favor of the swap meet volunteer their homes or yards to all of these hard working individuals so as to really get an up-close dose of the community vibe.

  11. ok look at this picture and think everybody is white any problem with that don’t
    cover yourself’s from what you realy

  12. why are you people complaining about something that doesn’t even happen anymore?

  13. I personally don’t see anything wrong with it. I’ve been enjoying the park since I was a kid and now that I have a family, my husband and my son go there regularly. The vendors don’t bother me. They’re not hurting anyone or harassing people to buy their wares.

    They’re not urban blight. They’re a part of the neighborhood scene. Sorry, the EP scene isn’t all about hipsters.

    btw christi -” I bet MacArthur Park and the surrounding area east of it started out as something beautiful, but sadly has evolved into trash-filled streets and a swap meet existence, overrun by cheap, imported crap oozing out of every orifice.”

    WOW. You bet right. You might want to look in the LA Times archives for pics of Mac Arthur Park. But just because the white -flight happened in the end of the last century and different ethnicities have taken over the area and prices have fallen, doesn’t make it a trash filled dump. Ever walk around there or talk to the people who live there? Probably not.

  14. Whew. We hit each of the reactionary talking points on this post in near record time.

    Hipster derision – check
    Pining for days gone by – check
    Racism – check
    White guilt – check
    Calling someone a cunt (new category!) – check, thanks to the ever eloquent “banana”

    I have no idea if the people pictured are white or not, nor do I care.
    It’s a park, not a swap meet. I don’t walk my dog or have picnics in a mall, and for good reason.
    We have no idea of these people’s “struggles”. Only that they shouldn’t be there.

    Ok, now I’m going to play in the park.

  15. tsk. tsk.

    looks like some people are sore. hipster derision….tsk, tsk. cry, cry. but it’s ok to bag on the poor people who sell their stuff in the park. nice, one. some of us in the neighborhood don’t mind. pining for days gone by – echo park was a neighborhood before the hipsters came along or were we none existent nobodies before that? sorry, difference of opinion, Alexis and friends. you have a good time in the park, sweety.

    oh, and btw i’m white.

  16. Yet none of you complain about food trucks. Maybe if these vendors got on Twitter they would have legitimacy?

  17. I don’t really have a strong opinion about the vendors/swap meet at the lake, although it did get very crowded towards the end before they got scared off by the cops. As for the food truck thing- I’m pretty sure most of those food trucks have to get a permit to operate and abide by health/sanitation laws. The lake/park itself is not licensed for commercial selling.

  18. So I don’t think comparing the swap meet to the gourmet food truck trend is a good analogy.

  19. a little off topic but..

    I don’t think calling what the food trucks serve to “gourmet” food is accurate at all. i find them to be an intro to Foodie 101 for youngsters who haven’t actually had good food yet.

    anyways, sorry for the diversion. back to your bickering.

  20. Whether the analogy works depends on whether you are concerned about the use of a public space such as a park for vending or if you are just concerned about revenue from permits/taxes. I get the impression that people are more concerned with the fact that people are using the park to sell things (and consequently obstructing public thoroughfares), and the permit thing is a rationalization. Could be wrong, but that is how I am reading most of the comments. So I will just go ahead and say that the use of public space is the more important concern.

    That said, the analogy works fairly well. Food trucks pull up in public spaces – sidewalks, parks, etc. and sell. Just as these vendors may impede foot traffic on a public thoroughfare, food trucks (and the customers) do the same when they set up.

    And to be clear, I don’t have a problem with either.

    Even if we do get to the permit/tax thing, it really just becomes a question of enforcement. If the people selling in the park are making a profit then it becomes an issue for the city, state and federal tax offices because the sellers would owe taxes on that income. If we are disturbed by the fact that these vendors are not paying their proper due, then we should call those offices.

  21. Akasha, thanks for proving my point!

  22. oh, Alexis you are most welcome, darling.

  23. I do not know why people are making a big deal how were they harming anyone I myself baught a few 50cent items tax that my friend. Thats great that you pay taxes so do I but you dont hear me complaining or hating on the vendors. Honestly how does their 50cent and $1 items affect us ??????? This country has had a lot of set backs and a lot of people lost their jobs this maybe why they started doing this. Atleast their trying to do something instead sitting at home and waiting for foodstamps.

  24. Two words: Bed Bugs.

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