The City of LA tried to get a lawsuit – filed against them by Street Vendors & Community Organizations challenging the City’s no vending zones – dismissed. Today, the judge ruled that the lawsuit will continue.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – March 16, 2023 – A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled today that a lawsuit challenging the City’s “no vending zones”, which prohibit sidewalk vending in many of LA’s most popular neighborhoods and tourist destinations, will continue.
The City of LA had asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, but the judge rejected the City’s demand, and directed that the case should go forward. Now, the City will need to provide evidence that it imposed the restrictions at issue based on objective health, safety, or welfare concerns.
“Sidewalk vendors have been fighting for the right to exist in public spaces for years,” said Public Counsel attorney, Brandon Payette. “Today’s ruling means that vendors will have the chance to continue that fight inside the courtroom.”
Vendor plaintiffs Merlín Alvarado and Ruth Monroy are joined by three community empowerment organizations – Community Power Collective, East LA Community Corporation & Inclusive Action for the City – and represented by Public Counsel and Arnold & Porter. In their lawsuit, they argue that the City’s restrictions violate a 2018 state law, SB 946, that legalizes sidewalk vending statewide. They also highlight differential treatment by the City that violates federal and state constitutional guarantees: encouraging brick-and-mortar stores to occupy wide swaths of the sidewalk while prohibiting sidewalk vending in these exact same locations.
“This lawsuit will demonstrate that when vendors secured passage of a state law upholding their rights, that act meant something – that the words and laws of the California legislature have meaning, and that the City of Los Angeles is not above the law,” said Payette.
Sidewalk vendors have shared that the existence of no vending zones creates a climate of fear and exclusion for sidewalk vendors in Los Angeles. “I have been cited as I’ve walked with my family on Hollywood Boulevard on my days off,” said Ruth Monroy, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit who has been vending on Hollywood Boulevard since before the no vending zones existed. “My presence alone on the Hollywood stars results in an unjustified citation that carries a lot of economic and mental weight.”
In addition to demanding the end of the City’s no-vending zones, the lawsuit calls for the end of vending restrictions near farmers’ markets, swap meets, and temporary events, as well as the removal of regulations limiting all vending to a narrow strip of space that is street adjacent and not directly in front of any building. The groups say these restrictions are also unlawful, failing to meet the requirements in California law.
“Not only does it violate the law to ban sidewalk vending in these areas,” explains Elba Serrano of East LA Community Corporation (ELACC), “but it’s also a missed opportunity to better our communities. Legalizing sidewalk vending in these zones – areas in LA with some of the highest levels of foot traffic – could simultaneously increase jobs and enliven our streets. It would encourage walkability and social activity, bolstering communal safety and enriching our city’s cultural fabric.”
Per the ruling from Judge Chalfant today, the City now has 30 days to provide a response to the substance of the lawsuit, and the Parties will be back in court in June to set a trial date.
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Public Counsel: Founded in 1970, Public Counsel is the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, utilizing an innovative legal model to promote justice, hope, and opportunity in lower-income and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the nation. Through groundbreaking civil rights litigation, community building, advocacy, and policy change, as well as wide-ranging direct legal services that annually help thousands of people experiencing poverty, Public Counsel has fought to secure equal justice and opportunity for all for more than 50 years.
Arnold & Porter: With nearly 1,000 lawyers and 14 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Arnold & Porter’s lawyers practice in more than 40 practice groups across the litigation, regulatory and transactional spectrum to help clients with complex needs stay ahead of the challenges they face.
Community Power Collective: Community Power Collective builds power with low-income workers and tenants through transformative organizing to win economic justice, community control of land and housing, and to propagate systems of cooperation in Boyle Heights and the greater LA region.
East LA Community Corporation: ELACC is a Boyle Heights-based community development corporation that uses an equitable development model to engage residents traditionally left out of decision-making processes. In addition to affordable housing, they provide financial capability services through their Community Wealth department, which supports sidewalk vendors with free tax preparation, financial coaching, Technical Assistance, and social loans. ELACC is co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign (LASVC) and has worked with micro-entrepreneurs for over a decade.
Inclusive Action for the City: Inclusive Action for the City (IAC) is a Community Development Financial Institution and nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles whose mission is to bring people together to build strong local economies that uplift low-income urban communities through advocacy and transformative economic development initiatives. IAC serves the community through policy advocacy, research, consulting services, business coaching, and a lending program, among other efforts. IAC is a co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign and has worked with street vendors and other small business owners for more than 10 years.