Yesterday, the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles filed suit in Federal Court against the City of Los Angeles and the Fashion District BID on behalf of the Union Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes. First of all, I set up a page to collect filings. I managed to track down a copy of the initial complaint (OK, I mean I bought it from PACER for $1.70, you’re welcome!), and you can read about it in the LA Times here if you want.
There’s an excerpt from the complaint after the break, but it’s really worth reading the whole thing.
One of the main points is that the LAPD and the BID conspire to not only cite and/or arrest the vendors, but to destroy their stuff. We’ve written before about how the Hollywood BID Patrol does the same thing. They not only arrest the vendors, but without any kind of due process, they ruin all their stuff, or even worse, appropriate it and steal it. You can see an example of this in the photo somewhere near this sentence. I would imagine that, now that the Fashion District BID is being sued, the HPOA is getting a little nervous. Turn the page to hear why!
They’ve done the same and worse since, as far as I know, the Fashion District doesn’t physically arrest street vendors, whereas the HPOA BID Patrol does this routinely. The part that probably has all the BIDs just absolutely terrified, and rightly so, is this claim in the complaint:
The Fashion District BID and the Owner’s Association act as agents of the City and have conspired with the City to violate plaintiffs’ rights.
It seems obvious that this is true, but both the City and all the BIDs deny it vehemently. It’s actually in the contract that the BIDs sign with the city that they’re not agents of the City. Of course, the fact that it’s in the contract doesn’t make it true. If this claim is upheld it will have major consequences for the existence and behavior of BIDs in Los Angeles. You read it here first.
The LAPD and the Fashion District BID, working together, have a policy, custom, and practice of seizing and destroying the property of street vendors who sell food and other items to the thousands of people that frequent the streets of the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles. The City has been on notice for more than a year that this was occurring and failed to take action to end the unlawful practice. The challenged practice is so widespread in the LAPD’s Central Division that the City cannot deny knowledge of the practice.
These officers, operating together under color of law and with complete disregard for the constitutional rights of the vendors, seize their property, including not only perishable goods like fruit and ice cream, but also shopping carts, dollies, coolers, umbrellas, utensils cutting boards, and sometimes the personal property that is with the vendors’ goods. While the vendors are forced to stand aside, often under threat of citations or arrest, these officers summarily throw the vendors’ property into the back of a BID trash truck and haul it away, giving the vendors no opportunity to get the items back, and leaving them no recourse against them.
The officers who seize and destroy the vendors’ property do so with no warrant or legal justification, and without affording the vendors any pre- or post-deprivation due process at all. The seizure and destruction of the vendors’ property serves no legitimate government purpose and is patently unreasonable. Instead of destroy the property as a sort of extrajudicial street punishment, meted out against the vendors as the officers see fit. The LAPD and BID act with no judicial oversight and without affording the vendors any way to challenge this punishment or seek the return of their unlawfully seized property before it is discarded or destroyed.
All images were obtained from the HPOA via the California Public Records Act and are therefore in the public domain.