Swap meet vendors return to Echo Park Lake as city considers regulations [updated]

Vendors selling their wares this Sunday at Echo Park Lake | Echo Park resident

ECHO PARK —  The sprawling and controversial weekend swap meet at Echo Park Lake disappeared after the park was closed  up for a two-year-long clean up. But the vendors – hawking everything from toys to clothes – have begun to trickle back into the park a little more than a year after it re-opened following a $40 million+ renovation. Today, a City Council committee takes up proposed restricts and regulations vending in parks and beaches.

The revised ordinance before the city’s Arts, Parks Health, Aging & River Committee is the most recent city effort to deal with vendors in public spaces. Before the lake closed and police began enforcing a state law,  the weekend swap meet at Echo Park Lake continued to thrive despite several attempts by then councilman and now mayor Eric Garcetti to clear out the vendors. While defenders of the vendors say the sellers are only trying to make a living, park advocates and others say the peddlers are taking over valuable space that is intended to be used for recreational – not commercial – uses.

Instead of banning all vending outright as did previous city laws, the proposed ordinance that will be reviewed today includes provisions for “regulating vending in public parks in a manner consistent with recent court rulings,” according to a letter by City Attorney Michael Feuer.

Under the ordinance,  the city would be able to issue a license or permit for a vendor  to “conduct or operate an authorized event, concession, business or trade.”  Other forms of vending that would be permitted are by persons engaged in “traditional expressive speech”  or  artists and writer who are selling items they created. Click here to view the ordinance for all the details.

The ordinance is subject to further review and changes and  requires approval by the full City Council and mayor before it becomes law.

Update:  The committee voted 3-2 in favor of the amended ordinance, with council members Gil Cedillo and Curren D. Price voting against and council members Joe Buscaino, Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell voting in favor.  Cedillo and Price said they wanted to remove penalties that would make vending in city parks a misdemeanor, which they said could put many immigrant vendors in danger of being deported or being unable to apply for citizenship.

Lawyers from the City Attorney’s office said the city currently has no legal way to prevent the selling of products or services – ranging from food and clothes to yoga classes and pony rides – in any city park. “There is no law that requires anyone to get a permit to vend,” said one city official.  Persons could even sell cars from park property. “They could practically do anything in the park,” an official said of the vendors.

The issue now goes to the full City Council for review.

Related Link:

  • L.A. may soon crack down on unlicensed park vendors. L.A. Times


Clothes for sale | Photo by Echo Park resident

Food vendors crowd area near sidewalk | Echo Park resident

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