The main difference between the drafts seems to be that in the first version the Bureau of Street Services will be responsible for licensing vendors and enforcement won’t start until 2020. In the second version the City will choose a private contractor to administer the program. There may be other differences that I didn’t notice.
In neither case is it possible to tell right now what legalized street vending will look like in Los Angeles. Both drafts require Recreation and Parks and the Bureau of Street Services to draw up detailed regulations for vending in parks and on the streets respectively, and what these will look like is almost completely undetermined by the language of the ordinances. Although, if the earlier-announced positions of Rec and Parks and of BSS are going to be implemented, we’re in for another long ugly fight which will probably include more lawsuits.
In particular, the BIDdies had managed to get the Council to agree that street vending could be banned in any neighborhood in Los Angeles merely because their councilmember asked for it. This serves BIDdies well, of course, because their repsters will do whatever it is that they ask in order to keep the firehose of campaign contributions turned up to eleven. By the end there they’d managed to enshrine such indefensible no-vending zones as Hollywood Boulevard and recommend that BIDs should be able to charge vendors for the privilege of operating on public streets.1
But this nonsense was switched right off by Lara’s bill, which states unequivocally that:
A local authority shall not require a sidewalk vendor to operate within specific parts of the public right-of-way, except when that restriction is directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare concerns.
Peggy Lee Kennedy and the Venice Justice Committee advocate for the rights of homeless people on the Venice Boardwalk. The LAPD has regularly threatened Kennedy with arrest for illegal vending in violation of the ordinance regulating such activities on the Boardwalk, that is to say, LAMC §42.15. Thus in February 2016 Carol Sobel filed suit in federal court on behalf of the activists. The suit survived a motion to dismiss after an August 2016 hearing in which not only did the City’s oral arguments seem pathetically pro forma but the judge, Dean Pregerson, seemed openly skeptical of the City’s position.
Yesterday was the second Friday of the month, so I hauled myself out West on the 733 to listen to the Venice Beach BIDdies babble on about whatever it is they’re talking about out there on Main Street, just inches from the Southern border of the City of Santa Monica. And naturally I videotaped the whole thing, and you can watch it here on YouTube or here on Archive dot Org as you prefer.
As always there was a lot of interesting stuff going on, and I’ll have at least one more post for you about it, but today’s topic is the security report by BID Patrol boss Azucena Vela of Allied Universal security. Here’s how it all went down. First, famous-in-Venice member of the Neighborhood Council Colleen Saro spoke during the newly attenuated public comment period. You can watch her here. She had a lot to say, but the salient bit was her comment on the BID Patrollies riding their damn bikes on the Boardwalk:
Your security guys first of all shouldn’t be on a bike on the boardwalk on a bike because that’s illegal so it’s kind of difficult for them to enforce if they’re breaking the law…
And if you know anything about Venice you know that, first, bikes on the Boardwalk are a big problem. People who ride them there are your basic antisocial psychopaths who are so fixated on their own convenience that they don’t care at all about running over children, old people, wheelchair riders and other human beings who can’t dodge quick enough. Also, second, it is actually against the law to ride a bike on the Boardwalk. It says so explicitly at LAMC §56.15(2):
No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle or unicycle on Ocean Front Walk between Marine Street and Via Marina within the City of Los Angeles, except that bicycle or unicycle riding shall be permitted along the bicycle path adjacent to Ocean Front Walk between Marine Street and Washington Boulevard.
Here are eleven pages of emails from 2014 released to me yesterday by Miranda Paster of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office.1 These provide a unique2 window into the process by which BIDs are created in the City of Los Angeles. It’s clear from these emails that, despite the fact that everyone in the City government denies it, the BID formation process is encouraged, facilitated, and inextricably interwoven with City action at every stage. Of course, this confirms precisely what the California Court of Appeal found in its landmark decision in Epstein v. HPOA: that “by giving the BID the legal breath of life, the City breathe[s] life into the POA as well.”3
Last month Judge Dean Pregerson heard oral arguments on the City’s motion to dismiss this suit, filed by the Venice Justice Committee against the City of Los Angeles in opposition to its ham-fisted attempts to regulate speech on the Venice Boardwalk. Today he filed his order denying the motion to dismiss in part and granting it in part as well. Pregerson’s a lively writer, and the order makes interesting reading. There are three main issues addressed in the order.
First up, the City regulates vending on the Boardwalk in various ways, but contains an exception for soliciting donations and other activities protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiff Peggy Lee Kennedy was evidently told on a couple of occasions by LAPD officers that asking for donations was vending and that she had to stop or face arrest. Everyone agrees that these cops were in the wrong, but the question before the Court seems to have been whether the law “as applied” was unconstitutional. Pregerson found that it was not, and accordingly dismissed the parts of the complaint that had to do with that claim.
Second,1 the Plaintiffs made claims under the Bane Act, which allows people to sue if their constitutional rights were violated maliciously. Pregerson found that even assuming that the Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated, they weren’t violated maliciously. I’m skipping some details, but that’s essentially why he also dismissed this cause of action.
Shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine, of shadowy BID consultantcy Devine Associates, slithered up out of the depths in which she habitually dwells to make a rare public appearance before the Los Angeles City Council on August 23, 2016, pleading for the Councilmembers to give life to the stitched-up-out-of-corpse-parts monster known as the Venice Beach BID which she’s been nurturing in her subterranean lair for many months now.
Yesterday evening a number of emails protesting the formation of a BID in Venice were added to the Council File. These demonstrate the heartening fact that not every owner of commercial property within the boundaries of the proposed BID supports its formation. The arguments are solid, too. For instance, Kevin Ragsdale says:
At this point, the idea of a VERY small group of property owners who may be handed $1.8 million with NO oversight, even by the City, is frightening and not appropriate unless and until we know more and have some say in the process that may well drastically change the face and character of the Venice we know and love in the name of profit making and creating a private police force. The consequences of this action without careful analysis will be profound and must be discussed in a wider audience of people, who also include the majority of property owners who have to pay and those who have more at stake than a desire to clean up Venice Beach to make more money.
A couple weeks ago the City of Los Angeles phoned in a motion to dismiss Carol Sobel’s lawsuit on behalf of Peggy Kennedy and the Venice Justice Committee. I went out to the Spring Street Federal Courthouse this morning to hear arguments, and it was not a waste of time, although the City still doesn’t seem to be making a serious effort in defending this case. The Deputy City Attorney, Sara Ugaz, didn’t argue so much as read selections from the City’s reply in support of its motion to dismiss. The reply is weak, and so were the selections, even more so for being read verbatim.
You may recall that the City is claiming that linking speech restrictions on the Boardwalk to the time the sun sets is accomplishing some rational purpose. First amendment jurisprudence allows such restrictions, but the purpose must be accomplished by the least restrictive means necessary. Thus it doesn’t portend well for the City, or at least for the fate of the motion to dismiss, that Pregerson repeatedly questioned Ugaz on how using the time of sunset could possibly be the least restrictive means. He mentioned that it occurs at different times during different seasons, for instance. This prompted Ugaz to claim that the City wants to clear the view of the ocean at sunset and that “people are coming home then.”1 The judge noted again that the sun sets at widely varying times, so how does anyone know when people are coming home. This prompted Ugaz to admit that “perhaps that wasn’t the best reason.” Continue reading Further Indication of Lack of Seriousness: City of Los Angeles Sends Attorney to Read Aloud Rather Than Argue its Motion to Dismiss in Venice Justice Committee Case; Judge Pregerson Seems Skeptical→