The city of Los Angeles will use its ordinance prohibiting the storage of “bulky items” on sidewalks—a law traditionally used to target homeless encampments—to force street vendors off the Walk of Fame, with enforcement starting Monday.
The crackdown is aimed at making sidewalks more passable—but advocates say there are better solutions.
Kerry Morrison, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, says vendors are blocking sidewalks, forcing people on foot to walk into the street with cars.
“The sidewalks... have become virtually impassable with the crush of people showing up to sell anything from A to Z, often setting up big tables right on the middle of the sidewalk,” she says. “It is a true public safety situation.”
A spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the area, says enforcement will begin Monday.
Street vending is illegal but prolific and a longtime part of the urban fabric of Los Angeles. The city is fleshing out regulations and rules to make it legal for vendors to sell fruit, hot dogs, t-shirts, and other trinkets and food with the proper permits. The rules, as drafted, would ban street vending at tourist attractions, including Dodger Stadium, Staples Center, and Hollywood Boulevard.
But those rules aren’t in place yet.
To rein in vendors now, authorities will enforce a law known as 56.11; it has primarily been used to purge furniture, tents, and belongings from homeless encampments in parks, alleys, streets, and sidewalks.
“Street vendors are not bulky items. When I think of bulky items, I think of mattresses, things like that,” says Rudy Espinoza, executive director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, a group that has advocated for legalizing and decriminalizing sidewalk vending in Los Angeles.
He called the ordinance a “blunt instrument to manage the public right-of-way.”
Leadership for Urban Renewal Network opposes the proposed street vendor ban on Hollywood Boulevard; Espinoza says it’s too extreme. He says the organization will push to strike that from the rules when they’re vetted by the City Council and its various committees.
In the past couple of weeks, under the direction of O’Farrell, the city’s bureau of street services has established a “bulky item special enforcement zone” on Hollywood Boulevard, from North Orange Drive to North McCadden Place. It’s part of the councilmember’s “Bulky Item Program and Pedestrian Safety Initiative.”
Signs posted on that three-block stretch of the world-famous tourist mecca say: “All items located on the public right-of-way which do not fit inside a 60-gallon container with the lid closed will be removed by the Bureau of Sanitation and stored for a period of 90 days.”
Espinoza says he wants the city to give vendors more time to come up with ideas to better manage the crowds. Vendors are already starting to work together to organize into shifts, he says, because “they understand they can’t all be there at one time.”
“In this case, street vendors happen to be the lowest-hanging fruit when talking about walkability on the Walk of Fame,” Espinoza says.
Jessica Meaney, executive director of Investing in Place, a group that advocates for more walkable streets, agrees. City and community leaders, she says, should see crowded sidewalks as an opportunity to provide better public gathering spaces in Hollywood.
“We want our sidewalks to be filled with life and vibrancy,” she says. If people in Hollywood are overflowing into the streets, she says, that’s a sign that Hollywood needs to make more room for people.
“The idea that an empty sidewalk is good for our city only makes sense if your orientation to the world is driving in your own private car,” Meaney says. “We need to put solutions on the table to expand the sidewalks... and make Hollywood Boulevard car-free.”