Calling it "an impossible enforcement situation," Glendale city officials this week ordered further study of a proposed ordinance that would ban pushcart vendors from the streets and severely restrict motorized peddlers.
Glendale City Manager James Rez said the city has received widespread complaints from merchants and restaurateurs that transient street vendors are competing unfairly with established businesses, which pay high overhead costs and sales taxes to the city.
They also have complained that vendors block sidewalks and contribute to litter and dirt. One irritated resident voiced objections to having to listen to tinny music broadcast from a parked ice cream truck.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit pushcart vendors from operating on any public property, such as sidewalks, public parking lots and parks. It also would limit sales from motorized vehicles, such as catering trucks, to 10 minutes at any one location. Rez said the proposal is modeled after a Pomona ordinance that has been upheld by the California Supreme Court.
Rez pointed out that the ordinance would not affect vendors who operate on private property, such as the plaza of a downtown office building, provided they have permission from the owner and comply with zoning regulations.
Despite the complaints from merchants, Councilman John F. Day said he is opposed to any ordinance regulating free enterprise. "We have too many ordinances on the books now," Day said. "We don't need more restraint of trade."
Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg disagreed: "Public rights of way belong to 150,000 citizens and encroachment on them is an imposition on the people who pay taxes."
City Clerk Merle Hagemeyer said merchants complained after the number of vendors increased dramatically within the last year, from a handful to more than 40 or 50, licensed to sell everything from food to stuffed toys and other merchandise. City officials attributed the increase to more restrictive laws in adjoining communities.
Several vendors appeared before the council Tuesday to question the fairness of the proposed ordinance and the severity of the problem.
Jerry Berman of Sepulveda, who has sold hot dogs in Glendale from a pushcart for 18 months, questioned the number of licenses, saying "only five or six" vendors are operating pushcarts in the city. There were no statistics available from the city clerk's office on the number of licenses issued to pushcart vendors.
Berman, who operates his hot dog cart in front of the Security Bank building at Brand Boulevard and Doran Street, said, "I do not interfere with any other restaurant or food establishment." He said his customers want a quick, inexpensive hot snack so that they have time to shop or relax during their lunch break. "Even the president of the bank eats there," he said.
Rez conceded that the proposed ordinance may be difficult to enforce because no city official monitors vendors.
City Atty. Frank Monzano requested more time to review the proposal. He added that, no matter what restrictions the city imposes on vendors, "There will be a lot of people trying to figure a way to get around them."