Street Vendors Get $150K From L.A. for Seized, Destroyed Equipment

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 11, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Selling food or goods on L.A. sidewalks is illegal, and remains so despite promises from lawmakers to legalize and regulate vending. Even so, the city is about to spend $150,000 to settle a class action lawsuit claiming that police and cleaning crews confiscated and destroyed vendors' property as "a sort of extrajudicial street punishment."

"Law enforcement now recognizes that street vendors have legal rights to their property," said plaintiffs' attorney Cynthia Anderson-Barker, adding the settlement "restores some dignity to a group that has been mistreated by law enforcement."

The City of Angels

As the Los Angeles Times reports, pushcart vendors sued the city two years ago, claiming the Los Angeles Police Department, the Fashion District Business Improvement District were responsible for confiscating and destroying carts and other belongings. The improvement district, which contracts with cleanup crews accused of improperly seizing belongings from vendors, was ultimately dismissed from the case, and will not have to pay part of the settlement or attorneys' fees.

L.A. Weekly has the story of the city's decades-long back and forth battle over street vending and its legality, noting that in recent years, crackdown on street vendors have become more severe:

During raids, the police confiscate vendors' carts and merchandise and threaten vendors with citation if they do not allow their goods to be taken away. "When the police come, there is panic," street vendor Merced Sanchez explains. "They take everything: tables, tents, merchandise. Sometimes when they come to arrest people who sell bootlegged items, they give everyone tickets that range from $300 to $2,000."

The City That Never Sleeps

New York is facing its own street vendor issue. Two street vendors are suing the city, claiming that Department of Health inspectors, with help from NYPD officers, seized and possibly destroyed their carts. Although the vendors were accused of selling items without a permit, neither was given a property voucher to reclaim their confiscated carts.

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