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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : Time for Accord on Vendors

June 01, 1993

The Anaheim City Council should not have been surprised when an appeals court last week unanimously struck down the city's attempt to prohibit vendors from doing business in residential neighborhoods. Though unfavorable to the city, the ruling does give officials a chance to broker the compromise they should have worked out in the first place.

The vendors mostly operate downtown and near Disneyland, selling food, cigarettes, clothing and even furniture from their trucks. Obviously, their customers like them: About 130 vendors operate in the city. Last September, during a bitter campaign in which the two councilmen running for mayor were on different sides of the issue, Anaheim banned the vendors from residential areas, though not from commercial districts. That came after homeowners complained that vendors brought trash, traffic, dirt and crime to their neighborhoods, and after some small-business owners complained that the vendors stole customers and operated with fewer regulations.

Though nearly all the vendors are Latino, city officials denied charges that the measure was racist. But in a foreshadowing of last week's ruling, an appellate judge warned that enforcing the ban against vendors selling things like cigarettes from small trucks but not against sellers of items like ice cream and bottled water from large trucks would be discriminatory. That is what the court has now ruled.

The city already has an ordinance permitting vendors to operate only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. They also must move their vehicles every hour and provide trash containers. After the ban was approved, but before it took effect, vendors suggested a compromise. They said the city could further restrict their hours and increase fines for violations. But a homeowners group, having already won the ban, refused to meet with the vendors to discuss the issue, and the city followed suit. The compromise seemed like a good idea then. It seems like a better one now. It would spare the city the expense of a state Supreme Court appeal.

Although the positions are reversed and the vendors now have the upper hand, everyone needs to be more reasonable and work out an agreement on this issue.

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