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Limits for Street Vendors Get Initial OK : Regulations: Council will vote next week on a proposal to license 100 people to use pushcarts.


POMONA — After months of mulling over whether a ban on street vendors who use pushcarts would rid the city of a nuisance or deprive some poor people of their livelihoods, the City Council has given preliminary approval to a compromise that would limit the number of vendors.

The council, by a 4-3 vote Monday night, agreed to replace an existing street vending ban--which has been largely ignored--with new regulations that will allow 100 licensed vendors to sell packaged food and other wares from pushcarts during daylight hours.

The regulations, set for a final vote March 16, apply only to pushcarts. Other street peddling practices, such as hawking flowers on street corners or selling items such as pillows out of a parked car or truck, will continue to be forbidden.

Mayor Donna Smith and the city staff proposed last year that the city crack down on certain street vendors by confiscating their pushcarts.

But City Council members, fearful of creating a hardship for poor people trying to survive in tough economic times, directed the staff to consider alternatives.

The resulting ordinance--developed after studying surveys of other cities and suggestions from council members--prohibits vendors from selling items out of a box or basket on the street. They must use a pushcart.

M. Margo Wheeler, community development director, said pushcarts in Pomona are almost always used to sell ice cream, although peanuts, other packaged foods and non-food items may be sold under the new plan.

Wheeler said that if 100 vendors are licensed, Pomona will wind up with about the same number of legalized pushcarts now operating on an unauthorized basis.

The proposal prohibits vendors from selling items within 300 feet of a church or school, and limits selling to between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., except during daylight savings time, when the hours would be extended to 8 p.m. Vendors also would be required to equip their pushcarts with containers for trash.

No one rose to speak for or against the plan at a hearing Monday night. But Wheeler said area business owners have complained in the past that pushcart vendors offer unfair competition, stationing themselves near their shops, and blocking sidewalks and littering the area with trash.

In addition, Wheeler said, some residents have complained about "the unsightly appearance of the carts, trash left behind by customers, the noise generated by the horns, bells and yelling of the operators, as well as the unsanitary appearance and habits of the operators."

The proposed regulation changes are a compromise, designed to allow vendors to stay in business if they follow city regulations, Wheeler said.

Councilman Ken West said the message to pushcart owners is: "You can do business, if you're willing to do business the Pomona way."

Under the proposal, the Los Angeles County Health Department would inspect the carts. Only food packaged at a facility approved by the Health Department could be sold. Vendors would be required to pay a city business license tax of $167 a year, obtain a vendor's permit for $12 and be fingerprinted, at a cost of $27.

Councilwoman Nell Soto said the fees are too high.

"I think this is unreasonable," she said.

But Wheeler said vendors rarely own their pushcarts. The companies that own the carts, not the street peddlers, would pay the fees, she said.

Smith and Councilman Boyd Bredenkamp voted against the plan, citing such concerns as legal liability to the city from pushcart accidents, sanitation and the cost of enforcing the law. Soto joined them, saying she feared the regulations "may turn out to be another vehicle for harassment" of vendors by city employees.

But Councilman Tomas Ursua said the plan contains reasonable restrictions that will "stabilize the situation" by controlling the number of carts allowed in the city.

And West said it will be no more expensive to enforce these regulations than to enforce a ban on street vending. Besides, the councilman said, by legalizing pushcart vending, the city will receive business license revenue.

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