The city of Los Angeles has released yet another proposed version of the law regulating public expression activities on the west side of the Venice Boardwalk.
Various versions of Municipal Code Section 42.15 have been rewritten and enacted by the city in the last six years as lawsuits were filed challenging provisions related to vending and other portions of the boardwalk ordinance.
The latest draft is proposed after a federal judge determined in October that sections of the 2008 version of the law related to the lottery system for selection of spaces and amplified noise should be blocked. In issuing a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson effectively stated that the provision that issues permits through a lottery system likely violates the First Amendment, and he also struck down restrictions regarding amplified sound.
The ruling came after a lawsuit was filed by 13 plaintiffs, including boardwalk performers and artists, alleging that the Los Angeles ordinance violated the First and 14th Amendments. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit additionally invalidated portions of the 2004 and 2008 laws that banned vending unless the items were “inextricably intertwined” with the vendor’s message.
City attorneys say that the new draft amends 42.15 and replaces the language that the courts have held to be unconstitutional. Specifically, the amended law restricts vending and prohibits excessive noise “in a manner consistent with the courts’ rulings,” city attorneys say.
“It returns to the standard contained in the city’s 2006 ordinance for determining whether an item for sale qualifies for first amendment protection,” city attorneys said in a statement.
Under the proposed ordinance, items that can be vended include newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets and bumper stickers, or items that have been created by the vendor such as books, CDs, paintings, photos and sculptures. Banned items are those that have “more than nominal utility apart from their communication” such as housewares, clothing, jewelry, oils, incense and lotions.
While the ordinance deletes a prior ban on amplified sound, the draft still bans the generation of noise beyond certain decibels between 9 a.m. and sunset.
In a letter to constituents, City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the city is working to fix the problems of unregulated vending and excessive noise on the boardwalk.
“We want to clear up the confusion on the boardwalk and make it enjoyable for everyone: tourists, residents, entertainers and artists,” Rosendahl said.
The councilman told The Argonaut that the new law is still a work in progress, but the city hopes to stop the illegal vending on the west side of the boardwalk, which has been out of control, and this is one way to control it.
The Venice Neighborhood Council held a meeting on the latest draft July 28, when a number of people expressed support for the new effort but some continued to voice concerns, particularly with the provision that outlaws the sale of jewelry. The neighborhood council supported a motion offering some specific revisions, including that handmade jewelry be dealt with separately and that nominal utility be defined.
“It was felt that given the legal nature of the document, there were areas of concern where it was necessary for attorneys to address the issue,” neighborhood council President Linda Lucks wrote to Rosendahl.
Lucks told The Argonaut that unregulated vending continues to be a primary problem for many people along the boardwalk. She noted that city attorneys have indicated they believe that the amended version of the law will withstand legal muster.
Rosendahl said the community will have other opportunities to offer input on the proposal, including hearings at the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee and the full City Council.
“Now we have a draft, and as we go through the community process we’ll see how the process shapes it,” the councilman said.