Councilman wants to prevent the return of Echo Park Lake swap meet

Echo Park Lake swap meet vendors in 2010. Photo by Echo Park resident.

The fate of a sprawling weekend swap meet at Echo Park Lake seemed resolved a few years ago when police began enforcing a state law  against the peddlers while former City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was working on a citywide law that would stand up to legal challenges.  But apparently the city’s Recreation and Parks Department still lacks the legal authority to deal with illegal vendors, according to the office of newly elected 13th District Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

The vendors attracted large crowds of shoppers but also complaints from residents and park goers as the lawns surrounding Echo Park Lake were covered with a wide variety of merchandise ranging from clothes and books to kitchen appliances and tools.  O’Farrell’s predecessor and now Mayor Eric Garcetti said he wanted the vendors cleared from the park but most of the city’s efforts failed.

Now, only a few weeks after Echo Park Lake reopened after a two-year clean up, O’Farrell has introduced a motion asking current city Attorney Mike Feuer to prepare the necessary ordinances giving the city the authority to control vending at Echo Park Lake and other public parks.

After spending $45 million on cleaning up the park, “we need the ordinance in place to regulate vending,” said O’Farrell. “We cant go back to the Wild West days. We are not regulating something that we should be.”

Echo Park Lake swap meet vendors in 2010/Photo by Echo Park resident

An earlier ordinance that restricted selling in parks was suspended after a lawsuit was filed 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 ideological messages.

“Although the litigation is not currently resolved, it is imperative that the city obtain the necessary tools to address the issue of illegal street vending in Echo Park,” according to O’Farrell’s motion. Illegal vending “continues to be a serious issue in Echo Park” and the Department of Recreation and Parks “does not currently have the authority to address illegal vending due to the litigation.”

While the motion, which was introduced last week, has yet to be reviewed or voted upon by the City Council, it has already caught the attention of advocates for street and sidewalk vendors.

The East Los Angeles Community Corporation, a nonprofit housing developer and advocacy group in Boyle Heights, has been working to create a city wide policy that would legalize and regulate street and sidewalk vendors through its Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign.

Today, the vendor campaign in a statement said that it has been “closely monitoring” the O’Farrell  motion. While “supportive of Echo Park Lake’s revitalization,”  the statement said “we should create ways for entrepreneurs like street vendors to legally earn a living. For years, street vendors have  not only  been a part of the Echo Park community, but a critical stakeholder in neighborhoods all across the City.”

O’Farrell said his motion is focused on parkland, which in this case would apply to the sidewalks and parkway surrounding parks,  and is the first step in a public process that will establish guidelines for those who wish to sell goods or services.

“We want to create a more positive environment and equitable playing field for those who want to play by the rules,” he said.  “We need a system in place that will regulate uses, as well as encourage more people to visit Echo Park Lake.”


  1. People in the 13th supplement their income selling goods at these swap meets. I encourage O’Farrell to be a councilman for ALL residents and put the same energy into finding a new location for people to vend (school or library parking lots, etc).

    • good idea Eddi,
      Micheltorena and Farfax both have flee markets on weekends. this give venders the opportunity to earn money and given money to the schools. the other two flee markets are more vintage and less swap meet, but that does not mean a swap meet type of sale could not work at an Echo Park school.

    • Street vending has been a part of Echo Park for decades. At the park, just regulate when, where and have folks clean up behind themselves.

      • Illegal street vending has indeed been at EP for decades, but it isn’t a good fit for the park and lake — certainly a terrible fit since reopening. The previous mkt took up the entire north end, and began to spill over along the rim till it nearly reached the 101 onramp. Perhaps it did reach, but by that time I had stopped looking, was sick of it.

        The markets are a somewhat recent development, as are the roving food carts, because they were simply disallowed back in the day, told to split and not come back. What’s changed since then? No one’s enforcing what’s on the books.

      • Not This Bad . Back in The Days It Was selling Ice Cream And Balloons I Remenber Back In The Early70’s It Was A Nice Park Peaceful Those Days are Gone”

    • As long as it is not at the lake, I’m cool with people selling their junk.

    • I’m a long term resident of echo park – and I’m 100% behind this idea.

      Find another location for these vendors – anywhere suitable , besides the Lake.

      Do not let vendors return to the lake and ruin it.

  2. Aldo Thee Apache

    Ugh, here we go again. Let the bickering commence!

  3. What a mess! Just looks like people selling their old clothes & junk, not “vending goods & services”. If you want to have a garage sale, have it in front of your own house, not in a public park. I have seen school parking lots set-up for these kinds of sales & that works great.

  4. Good solution, Eddie. I was afraid my bleeding heart had gone awry when nodding in complete agreement with CM O’Farrell’s efforts. I love our park, and it’s been a joy to see everyone using it. I put effort into keeping up the park, picking up others’ trash and/or give kids a stern look when I see them wading in the water, gently stating, “I don’t think the water is healthy to swim in.”

    The biggest distraction are the mobile vendors with ringing bells. I’ve found myself leaving the park, to avoid the ringing.

    The addition of Square One is great, and it would be nice to find a way to bring in more vendors that would add rather than distract from the park. Maybe once a week food fest, in specified areas, where noise and trash can be confined. I know I’m asking too much, but I think vendors should be selected and curated, promoting artisans (blue taco lady, seasonal paletas and popsicles), rather than having five carts selling Nestle Novelty Bars. And, yes, they should be regulated. Question is how to do that without discouraging smaller participants?

    Until then, no vendor is better than distracting ones.

    • I run the park daily. today I saw one of those ice-box vendor dudes parked at the entrance of the cafe ringing his bell(s). How is that fair to the cafe who sells the same stuff but has to satisfy regulations from the heath inspector (cha ching) pay employees (cha ching) pay insurance (cha ching) rent of the boat house (cha ching) ETC…!

      There must and shall be regulation! Its the only thing that keeps us from turning into the “mercantilo” society that our southern neighbors suffer.

    • I find the flute playing hipsters way more annoying than these bells you yuppies like to complain about.
      I can’t believe how many people are complaining about bells.
      So stupid.

  5. Glendale Eastsider

    Vendors in the park is part of the DNA of Echo Park. Trying to legislate it away is not going to work

    Could a day or two be set aside each month for these vendors?

    Echo Park Avenue could be closed between Park and Laguna, or Park Avenue could be closed between Glendale and Echo Park Avenue for vendors. This would give vendors and patrons more room and help keep the park looking nice.

    A nominal charge for a daily, monthly or yearly permit might help in controlling and identifying problem vendors.

    • A park should never be a place for business! It is the only space set aside for the public to go to escape!! If you would like a place to sell stuff, I’ll point you to lots of available retail space in the area. Parks are NOT FOR RETAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Absolutely not.

      The park isn’t a free retail space for vendors to pollute.

      Ban them from the Lake.

    • Echo Park resident

      A public park is not a place to hold a garage sale or rummage sale. If you might remember, the old “swap meets” — I prefer to call them junk sales — took up the entire portion of the park facing the Angelus Temple. The vendors do not sell anything or artistic merit, or anything to benefit the community. Instead, it’s all broken, cheap appliances and heavily used clothing better suited for sale at Goodwill.

      If the vendors have a market for their wares, they should set up a garage sale at their residence, or obtain a legal permit to sell at a swap meet location in DTLA or Westlake.

  6. As long as they’re not selling live animals I’m good.

  7. This is America, and we have laws. And hopefully, a government that enforces the laws. The bell ringing food vendors on wheels are highly annoying and disturb the peace at the park. I have trouble enjoying the park with the constant, very loud bell ringing. I’m pretty sure you can sell ice cream without ringing the alarms that can be heard from across the park. I think what is not being said, is that the park is a public space. Conducting a business in a public space is illegal. Not to mention, the pictures above make me sick! It looks like trash strewn about everywhere. How do you expect our physically disabled citizens in wheelchairs to use the sidewalk when there is trash strewn about, blocking the sidewalks? It seems like a public health and safety issue to me. I see these illegal swap meets all over Los Angeles.

    The only solutions: have a yard sale or rent a space at an actual swap meet. Here is to hoping Garcetti and the council continue to fight for our city and clean it up.

  8. The city parking lots just south of sunset between echo park and leymone would be perfect for an organized sanctioned swap meet/flea market. Not echo park lake. I can see maybe a limited # of food and beverage carts & vendors in the park’s periphery but the interior of the park should be kept clear of this this type of vending. The type of commerce represented in the photos should 100% NOT be permitted in the park. It’s a park not a swap meet.

    • you are missing the point. these vendors do not have permits. especially not food permits, certainly not safe-serv permits. nothing is NFS. it is illegal and to turn a blind eye to that must mean it is ok for me to run an illegal business as well, but since i am white and middle class, i would probably end up in jail. so much for equality.

      • I guess that’s where this all gets tricky. From a PR standpoint cracking down on a 60yo guy selling corn doesn’t look so good for the City. Especially since there are “bigger” issues like tagging and the like going on. It’s almost like the City needs to tackle it a couple of ways simultaneously: 1) no permit, no selling 2) provide assistance so that the vendors can comply – show them where to go, what to do 3) allow certain # of street vendors per corner, maybe look to NYC for how they do it 4) Keep the fees reasonable relative to what they’re selling 5) for the EP vendor issue where people sell their crap, er stuff, set up a swap meet every weekend, again using the city lots. Just coming down hard without offering ways for people to do things legitimately if there is an option never works. The issue has to be tackled on multiple levels just like the gang problem.

  9. Guess what… when I want to use the PUBLIC park, I don’t want to see a 3rd world swap meet. If you did this type of thing in other parts of the USA, you would fined and/or arrested. Disgusting photos. We paid how many million dollars to clean up the park?

  10. We hear the same arguments with the gangs, “well the illegal vendors are part of the history so they aren’t going anywhere” or “if you don’t like illegal vendors, you shouldn’t have moved to LA” or “the illegal vendors were here before you”.

    Times change and neighborhoods change… and when they do change, we community members try our hardest to make sure they change for the better. And, thankfully, it looks like with a changed mayor and changed city council, laws will actually be enforced and we can once again work towards a civilized, healthy and safe society. The civil community members are counting on you, Mr. Mayor. Please don’t be like the last one and sympathize with the criminal elements.

  11. Just tax the sales. Have city tax people audit the vendors to ensure they have a business permit and a tax id number.
    Quickly, the vendors will disappear.

    • Totally with you on the tax thing, but. All Cash!? “Uh yeah we didn’t sell nothing today man”

      The solution is keeping the park a park. No business in the park. Plenty places to do business without being in the park. The only one that is allowed to sell shit in the park is the people who pay to lease that super expensive cafe /boat house. They should DEMAND and deserve exclusivity.

  12. I’m not in favor of allowing vendors in the park, but to be fair, a couple times a year the city has done just that – during the Cuban festival (I don’t know its official name) and the Lotus Festival. I think it would be a great idea to close off the surrounding streets during those festivals and set up the vendors’ booths on the streets rather than in the park, so that the city sends a consistent message throughout the year: The park is for quiet enjoyment, not for commerce.

  13. What ever happened to Tupperware parties?

  14. Just think of all the bedbugs infesting the park if the illegal vendors come back selling things they find dumped on the street or in trash bins.

    Go Mitch! Thank you for making this issue one of your priorities.

  15. “A picture says a thousand words”

    Do you want your park to look like that ^^ picture?

  16. Thank you Mitch for supporting the park and for making sure the park remains free of swap meet-like vendors covering the grass with blankets, illegally selling items, etc. This is a PARK, a place for families, recreation, rest, NOT illegal commerce! We voted for the right guy when we voted for O’Farrel?

  17. Please dont get rid of the food vendors. Nothing tastes as good as an elote on a warm day follows by a nice palette. I agree, that vendors hawking old junk have no place in at our park, but the food vendors are a part of park culture almost everywhere in So Cal. Try as I may, I have never been able to perfect the elote at home. I dont want to have to search all over LA for my beloved Elotes and paletas.

    • paula these people need to get permits just like we do. my restaurant cannot sell food, no matter HOW GOOD, without several permits, most importantly, one that insures food is not cross-contaminated. if not, let’s just get rid of the permit system, no health and safety protection at all, it will be great!~ just like upton sinclairs good ol’ days of the jungle!
      (uh, google it)

    • monika on clinton

      Go to Macarthur Park. Plenty unregulated-food-born-illness-vendors there…

  18. Whoever wants an Elote from the man that scratches his balls, be my guest. People like that stuff, and people get hungry at the Park. If you are not eating off the cart, then why sweat it? Some of that stuff is really ridiculous, wrapped all the way around the park. Maybe they should get taxed, only by street thugs though.

    • Taxed by street thugs … once again, Scholaris, you’re showing the world your mixed feelings about leaving that life behind. I understand how tough it must be to give up the respect that the youngsters in the neighborhood feel for you as a “veterano,” the look of envy in their eyes when you share your “war stories” with them – but then you can’t complain that law-abiding citizens and police look at you with suspicion.

  19. Go Mitch! and please include the illegal trainers at Silver Lake Rec Center and Silver Lake Meadow. They are taking over the parks and running an un-permitted businesses .

    • Triple go Mitch — voted for you and Mr. Garcetti, hope you can both navigate this issue. I visit the park a lot, on my way in to work this morning, and it’s business as usual for the new lake: dozens of walkers and joggers, parents with kids, gazers at the scenery. The vibe is about as wonderful as can be. My thanks.

      The food vendors are illegal, unlicensed, possibly a health hazard (though perhaps delish) and to see them gathered outside the legal, licensed and insured Boathouse operation is a sight of urban dysfunction. Would be angry were I Square 1 ownership, to be honest. No one’s watching the new store.

      And idiot cyclists riding through crowds, unbelievable — saw another close collision Sunday, older Latino jogger nearly skewered by younger Latino rider, weaving through crowd of walker/joggers on west bank.

      Older fella tried to elbow younger, “Hey pendejo, cabron, can’t you read?!”

  20. Well done, Mitch.

  21. Since Echo Park reopened, I have been walking there after work. It’s beautiful. The park is pretty darn clean. Every kind of person is using it – all races and ages, hipsters, seniors, young couples, dog-walkers (the majority of whom all appear to be carrying plastic bags to clean up their doggies’ business, and keeping their mutts on-leash), families with little kids – everyone co-existing peacefully, enjoying the water, the plants, the shade on the lawn … it’s great. The very thought of it once again looking like the photos above makes my blood run cold. This park is one of L.A.’s most iconic places, a public park, paid for with public money, for everyone to enjoy. It’s not a shopping mall for people’s left-over clothing. Moreover, I completely agree that food vendors should be licensed. Just tonight I walked right past a guy selling stuff out of a grocery cart, with a giant jar of unrefrigerated mayonnaise sitting right there. Yeah … I wanna eat that. I’m not necessarily against all vendors, but they should be regulated and licensed.

  22. Sara says it.

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