L.A. street vendors sue city over right to sell in prohibited zones

On a good night, street vendor Merlín Alvarado sells sizzling bacon-wrapped hot dogs to tourists along Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue 25.

At $8 per dog, the profit is enough to feed her and her three children.

However, Alvarado’s success depends less on how many hot dogs she sells and more on whether she is visited by Los Angeles City officials enforcing a no-sale zone.

In the last two years, she has been fined at least 30 times, each time with fines ranging from $100 to $500.

“I pay higher costs for expensive petrol [cooking] Oil and groceries and $20 for parking,” said Alvarado, 36, a native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who has been a street vendor for 17 years. “Now one ticket wipes out a whole night’s work.”

Alvarado, along with Hollywood saleswoman Ruth Monroy and a trio of community organizations, sued the city on Wednesday in hopes of eliminating eight no-vendor zones created by a 2018 ordinance that decriminalized street vending elsewhere in the city as long as the vendors bought permits.

Alvarado is one of about 85 vendors she knows who sell within 500 feet of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where a 1.3-mile stretch full of potential customers is off-limits.

“Enough is enough,” Monroy, 42, who sells hot dogs and fruit on the Strip, said at a news conference on Hollywood Boulevard Thursday. “We are all legal. We’ve paid for our permits and all we want are the same rights that other companies have. It makes no sense that we are being harassed and pushed away.”

The other zones where street vending is prohibited within 500 feet are Dodger Stadium, Hollywood Bowl, LA Live and Convention Center, Los Angeles Coliseum and Exposition Park, Olvera Street, Universal City/Universal Studios and Venice Beach. The city’s stated reason was that street vending could exacerbate congestion.

“These are huge stretches of some of Southern California’s most popular travel destinations cut off from hard-working street vendors,” said Katherine McKeon, an attorney with public counsel who, along with the law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, is representing plaintiffs pro bono.

The lawsuit alleges that the city is violating a state law that allows local governments to restrict sidewalk sales due to “public health, safety and welfare concerns.”

“The City Council or city officials have never provided any evidence as to why street vendors could not be allowed in these areas,” McKeon said.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said city officials were reviewing the lawsuit.

Hermenegilda Garcia came to the press conference to support other street vendors. She said she’s “rarely harassed” for selling hot dogs and tacos in the no-sale zone at Exposition Park.

But a decade ago, she said, she was arrested for street selling and nearly deported.

“The sellers have fought hard for legitimacy and our right to sell and be productive members of society,” said Garcia, 48, a native of Acapulco, Mexico. “That’s all we want.”

Near MacArthur Park, where there are no restrictions on street selling, vendors peddled dolls, sneakers, batteries, blenders and other items on Thursday.

Carlos Carrasco, 43, a native of La Unión, El Salvador, displayed his wares — toilet paper, tissues, napkins and paper towels — on South Alvarado Street.

He sympathizes with street vendors in the no-sale zones, but wonders why they don’t try their luck elsewhere.

“As soon as I have the first ticket, I’ll go,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “I can’t afford to absorb a $100 or $200 ticket.”

Cynthia Cisneros, 33, a native of Mexico’s Guanajuato state, said she’s been selling Elots near MacArthur for two years, free from the harassment she experienced opening a shop near the fashion district.

“You must go where you can survive,” said Cisneros under a rainbow umbrella. “I hope the sellers are successful, but I’ve never seen anyone beat City Hall.”

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-09/la-me-street-vending-ordinance-lawsuit-protest L.A. street vendors sue city over right to sell in prohibited zones

Alley Einstein

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