Last night’s meeting of the Echo Park Improvement Assn. featured city officials reviewing their efforts to prevent vendors – hawking everything from toilet paper to TVs – from surrounding much of Echo Park Lake on Sundays. The city has ticketed cars, ordered vendors off the sidewalk and even kicked out peddlers who camped out in the park overnight to claim prized spaces. None of that has worked as officers have been left powerless to stop vendors from taking over public space as the city seeks to resolve a five-year-old lawsuit brought by vendors and exhibitors at the Venice Boardwalk. But if a lawsuit can stop the city from enforcing its laws, maybe another lawsuit can force it into action. That’s the strategy revealed at last night’s meeting when residents began passing out small claims court forms to be filed against the City of Los Angeles. The claims for $7,500 in damages allege the city has failed to enforce state public nuisance laws.
“If 100 people signed up to file claims … that’s a $750,000 potential liability” for the city, said Andrew Garsten.
City Attorney Andre Quintero, who was at the meeting, did not say if that strategy would work but it might attract attention. “You know what, if that starts coming our way, our office would have to respond.”
Quintero said the litigation that has suspended the city’s prohibition on vending on public property may soon be resolved. Until then, however, the city may seek enforcement of laws that require the vendors to collect sales tax and hold city business licenses, said Alejandra Marroquin with Council District 13.
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