For years now, residents and business owners in the Florence-Firestone section of Los Angeles County have complained about street vending lining Compton Avenue from 60th Street to Slauson Avenue, where everything from ice cream to t-shirts to CD’s and DVDs or bicycles and infant car seats are available for sale.
While these sidewalk swap meets provide income for some, they are a constant nuisance for local residents who live in the area, a drain on tax revenues and a hardship for mom-and-pop businesses that are forced to compete with vendors that literally set up shop directly in front of their venue. They are also a public health hazard –vendors sell food that often is improperly stored or prepared in unsanitary conditions.
To address this problem, which over the years has become increasingly entrenched, the Board of Supervisors , acting on a motion brought by Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas , called for county departments, including the departments of Regional Planning, Public Health and the Sheriff’s Department, to coordinate with each other and create an ordinance that would abate the problem. The motion also called for the departments to seek ample input from businesses, vendors and residents, who would be affected by new rules.
“These street vending areas have long posed a problem for residents and local businesses,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “We have heard their complaints and we need more substantive and effective measures to address their needs. I fully support appropriate channels for employment for hardworking people, but this must be done in a way that is safe, healthy and legal, and that does not harm the quality of life for others.”
Residents complain that as early as Thursday night, customers for the street vendors park and sleep in their cars to reserve a spot for shopping Friday through Sunday. Not only is the congestion a neighborhood nuisance, many brick-and-mortar shop owners have trouble making ends meet, unable to compete with the lower prices offered right in front of their stores.
“The same people that came to the United States for the American Dream are also being affected; these small mom-and-pop shops are being affected,” said Efren Martinez, executive director of the Florence Firestone/Walnut Park Chamber of Commerce. “I have had business owners come in here crying because they can no longer pay their rent because they losing all business to these vendors.”
Antonio Moreno, owner of a mini-mart in the Florence-Firestone area, told the supervisors that he rarely turns a profit on weekends, due to the 400 vendors who typically line the street, selling the same merchandise that he and other store owners sell too.
“At this point I’m in danger of closing my business, because I don’t have any sales Saturday and Sunday,” Moreno said. “Please keep me in mind when you’re deciding what to do — there are all kinds of delinquencies going on in that area — we’re desperate.”
Also, community members have noted that many of the unauthorized vendors are not from the area, but have come to Compton Avenue because the laws against unlicensed vending are more rigorously enforced in other cities.
“For two long we have turned the other way while these communities are taught to think that there’s one standard for them and another for affluent communities, where rules are obeyed and enforced,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “What we seek here is balance. We seek an ordinance that promotes fairness and safety and public health. For everyone.”
[h3_underlined]What should the county do about street vending? Share your thoughts. [/h3_underlined]