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Pomona to Ban Most Street Sales : Will Allow Only Ice Cream Peddlers

August 09, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — In a crackdown on what are considered unsightly and unsanitary street peddlers, the City Council has approved a series of proposed regulations aimed at sharply restricting ice cream sales and banning all other vendors.

The council took the unanimous action last week on the recommendation of acting Fire Chief Ron Robertson, who has reported repeated violations of health, safety and other laws by the city's dozens of street vendors over the last year.

"A lot of the trucks are really kind of unsavory operations," Robertson said. "The quality of the product is questionable, and so are some of the people. . . . I think it tends to detract from the overall image we're trying to present in this city."

But some critics contend that the new standards could be too restrictive and too costly for small entrepreneurs. Additionally, since a majority of the city's street vendors are Latino, they argue that such regulations attack deeply rooted traditions and values.

"There's a great colorfulness to street vending. We can use some of that humanity in our streets and neighborhoods," said Daniel N. Fox, a Pomona attorney representing the California Paleta Patrol, a local vendor of traditional Mexican ice cream bars.

"What we have basically is upper-class standards of aesthetics being applied by people who don't have a feel for the cultural importance of vending," he said.

City officials, however, say that Pomona's streets have been swamped, especially on weekends, by an influx of unsafe, unclean and unattractive vending vehicles.

There have been reports of drug sales and short-changing by the drivers, they say. The trucks commonly impede traffic and park illegally. Many are not properly licensed. And, officials say, the vehicles are frequently run-down eyesores from which melted products are being sold by individuals who themselves often have not paid close attention to proper hygiene.

"We're not trying to deprive anybody of making a living," Robertson said. "But we also feel an obligation to the citizens of Pomona to assure that the products being sold are reasonable in terms of health and those sorts of things."

The proposed regulations, which are being drafted into a city ordinance, would not affect industrial catering trucks, which usually follow fixed routes and are invited onto property, officials said.

In addition, the standards do not address non-motorized pushcarts, which have been illegal in Pomona since 1981.

Ice cream vendors, however, would be fingerprinted and issued a city identification card under the proposed regulations.

They would be required to drive a half-ton to one-ton truck with a step-van frame, structured so that sales could be made without leaving the vehicle. Only commercial freezers would be permitted. Inside surfaces would have to be washable. And any advertising on the exteriors would be limited to a "poster size" of 24 by 36 inches.

All other street vendors, including those selling fruit, vegetables, cassettes, dairy products, tires or tacos, would be banned.

"When we set the regulations in place, it'll be harder for the people to meet them," said Fire Capt. Tom Fee, head of the city's Code Enforcement program. "But it'll be better for the citizens of Pomona and the image the city wants to project."

For some peddlers, however, the regulations might prove to be too much.

"My client is capitalized on a shoestring, yet she markets a clean, delicious product and she's very personable," Fox said. "I don't want to see all vendors in Pomona legislated out of existence."

Fox said he was concerned that a crackdown would inhibit the sale of many ice cream flavors, such as guava and tamarind, which are unique to Mexico and Central American countries.

"There's a pride in the Spanish language and these unique and tropical flavors that speak of the homeland," he said. "It's an act of discrimination to bear down on these small merchants, these entry-level entrepreneurs, who have traditionally sold to each other in their neighborhoods."

The driver of one independent ice cream truck also expressed concern that the strictness of the regulations might have the same effect as outright prohibition.

"I go for clean, neat trucks, but the standards shouldn't be too harsh," said the vendor, who asked not to be identified. "That's the fear. If they put the standards too far, a lot of us realistically won't be able to meet them."

And for others, such as Anita Juarez, it won't even be a question of meeting new standards. After seven years of selling chilies, mangoes, papayas and avocados on the streets of Pomona, she will soon be forced to give up the produce business she runs from the back of her pickup truck.

"I have many clients," said Juarez, who opened a produce store three weeks ago in anticipation of the new regulations. "Many people seek me. I always carry the freshest produce I can."

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