LYNWOOD — While children might find sidewalk ice cream vendors delightful, the Lynwood City Council thinks they are a menace and has passed an ordinance banning them from the city effective Aug. 16.
To the chagrin of the vendors, Lynwood joins six other Southeast cities in either banning or restricting vending in public rights of way. Nearby Carson and Santa Ana in neighboring Orange County have similar restrictions.
Under the ordinance passed unanimously by the council on Tuesday, all types of vending, peddling and selling or soliciting on public streets, sidewalks, parks and other public properties are prohibited. Food catering trucks, however, will be allowed to continue selling as long as they are on private property.
The new regulation affects 69 ice cream trucks and ice cream pushcarts, 13 peddlers and sellers of fruits and vegetables and 16 lunch trucks, according to Patricia Saldi, city business license regulator.
All of the vendors currently are required to take out business permits with the city. The annual fee varies, with lunch truck operators paying $100, ice cream trucks and pushcart vendors $30 and other sellers of different products, including clothing, fruits and vegetables, paying $200.
Violation of the ordinance will be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment for a period of not more than six months or both, said Don Fraser, city manager. Violators probably will be given warnings initially, city officials said.
Council members give a variety of reasons for banning the vendors.
Councilman E. L. Morris said the council had received several complaints from citizens that the trucks created safety hazards for children dashing into the streets and that ice cream carts caused congestion on the sidewalks.
Morris said there were also unsubstantiated complaints that some vendors might have been working beyond the 10 p.m. curfew for vendors and selling drugs in the parks. "There was suspicion but never any proof that something else was being sold," Morris said. "We had to do something to protect our kids. We were thinking of the safety of the kids. The pushcarts also make the city look tacky," said Lynwood Councilman Robert Henning who said he suggested the ban to the council.
"We don't want any street vendors, including those selling oranges, apples and fruits. It is a health question. We don't know what they are selling," Henning said.
Complaints of vendors causing traffic congestion on some city streets, especially during the weekends, have been reported but there were no records of any specific problems directly related to vendors, according to a sheriff's spokesman.
Some vendors said they were unaware of the pending ordinance; other vendors expressed anger, while some said they were resigned to the ban.
"We are going to fight this. We are hiring a lawyer," said Rafael Gallegos, manager of Manhattan Fruit Bars, which sells paletas or frozen fruit bars to the pushcart operators.
"Councilman Henning must be blind. We are not making the city look tacky or cheap. We are providing people with jobs," Gallegos said. He said his company has distribution offices in Lynwood, the unincorporated area of East Los Angeles, El Monte and the San Fernando Valley.
"There are other problems in the city the council should be dealing with. Pushcarts don't make the city look cheap. Cheap motels, drug selling and streetwalkers do," Gallegos said.
Gallegos called the City Council a "small group of elite people setting themselves up as rulers of the United States."
"Our product is first-rate. Our frozen food is of the highest quality. It is approved by the Los Angeles County Health Department," Gallegos said.
He said he and a group of vendors expect to attend the next council meeting, scheduled for Aug. 6, to protest the new regulation. The group did not protest prior to the ordinance passage, Gallegos said, because it was not aware of any public hearings.
City Clerk Andrea Hooper said the new ordinance constituted an administrative change that did not require public hearings before council approval.
Pushcart vendor Saul Claudio Covarrobias, 17, said he heard about the new regulations "by the grapevine. Talking with others vendors."
Covarrobias, like the majority of Lynwood pushcart street vendors, is Spanish-speaking. Covarrobias, who came from Jalisco, Mexico, two months ago, said he can gross several hundred dollars by working six days a week in both Lynwood and Compton (which does not have a ban). He said he receives about 35% commission on his sales.
"I don't know what I will do. I guess I will go to another city," Covarrobias said.
Ice cream truck vendors who, unlike most pushcart vendors, own their own businesses and purchase their products wholesale, also expressed anger and confusion.
"What do they want me to do? Go on welfare? I have child support payments to make," said Antonio Sanchez, 35.