BY VINCE ECHAVARIA
A revised City of Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting commercial vending activity on the west side of Ocean Front Walk in Venice and regulating the time, place and manner of “public expression” activities is now in place on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
The ordinance was approved by the Los Angeles City Council in January and went into effect on the Boardwalk Saturday, March 25th, when the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) began enforcing the new law.
Under the new ordinance, vending activity — defined as selling, offering for sale, exposing for sale, soliciting offers to purchase or bartering — on the west side of the Boardwalk is prohibited.
But the ordinance states that the provisions do not apply to the following exemptions;
n performance artists;
n any individual or organization vending newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, bumper stickers or buttons; or
n any individual or organization that vends items which have been created, written, composed or otherwise produced by the vendor, such as books, cassette tapes, paintings, sculptures or any other item that is inherently communicative and has nominal utility apart from its communication.
Examples of items that have more than “nominal utility” and may not be vended include — but are not limited to — housewares, appliances, articles of clothing, incense, oils, lotions, candles and jewelry, the ordinance states.
Persons engaging in the exempted activities must hold a valid public expression permit issued by the city Department of Recreation and Parks.
Among the other regulations of the new law are that the exempted activities are prohibited on the Boardwalk between 10:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. daily, and noise generated must be limited to a distance of 50 feet from the source.
“I think it’s a long time coming, and a lot of work has gone into it from all of the stakeholders involved,” Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council Ocean Front Walk Committee chair Linda Lucks said of the new ordinance.
“I think it’s fair and will allow the free-speech people to have space.”
At meetings of the Ocean Front Walk Committee, some members of the Boardwalk community had expressed concern about prohibited vending items such as jewelry and T-shirts, but the ordinance has otherwise received “overwhelming support,” Lucks said.
Prior to the ordinance approval, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl organized a series of town hall meetings to receive community input, and many Boardwalk representatives said they were in favor of eliminating commercial vending.
But some longtime Boardwalk vendors were also concerned about the ordinance restricting their ability to sell items which they say have a religious purpose.
While Rosendahl acknowledged that there are still some concerns from the Boardwalk community, he said the new ordinance has been “exceptionally well received.”
“So far so good,” Rosendahl said. “It’s not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Rosendahl visited the Venice Beach Boardwalk when the ordinance went into effect Saturday, March 25th, and said he was pleased at the reaction from the community.
Lucks, who was also at the Boardwalk last weekend, agreed with the councilman’s observation.
“It seemed pretty calm and peaceful,” Lucks said.
Police began enforcing the ordinance regulations by patrolling the Boardwalk and issuing warnings to those who were not compliant, said Sgt. David Rosenthal, of the LAPD Pacific Venice Beach Detail.
“I think it was received fairly well and most people were in compliance,” said Rosenthal, who patrolled the Boardwalk Saturday, along with city Department of Recreation and Parks representatives.
Police issued warnings to those who were initially not compliant with the regulations and gave those people time to either “fix” the problem or leave the space, he said.
“We gave them a warning and let them try to fix what it is,” he said.
If, when police returned, the person was still not compliant, a citation for a misdemeanor violation was issued, Rosenthal said.
Police issued four citations Saturday, and arrested one man selling lotions who allegedly said he would continue to stay at his space even if he was issued a citation, Rosenthal said.
Longtime Boardwalk vendor Jeffrey Stanton, who said he has been selling his own photographic Venice images in postcard form for 26 years, said he was told by police that he can no longer sell the postcards because they have a “secondary use” as mail and that his table full of illustrated books he sells to supplement his Venice history book is also prohibited.
“I thought art pieces and photos were protected,” Stanton said. “My weekend postcard sales of $5 to $10 per day barely covered my grocery bill, but the Venice Boardwalk was one of the few places that a man in his 60s can still work.”
While there may be some “bumps” in the first few months of the new ordinance implementation, it will eventually become a “smooth ride,” Rosenthal said.
Rosendahl has established a working group with the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council and Boardwalk stakeholders and the group is to hold ongoing meetings to monitor the effects of the new ordinance.