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Trying to Outlaw the Unwanted Vendors : Santa Clarita: City Council wants an ordinance that will allow the ones they like, but ban those they consider undesirable.

September 19, 1993|JONATHAN GAW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARITA — The City Council wants to rid the city of unwanted roadside vendors--while keeping the ones they do like.

It's not hot dog vendors such as Joseph Bernard, who hawks lunch in the Valencia Industrial Center every workday, that they find objectionable, the council said. Instead, it is those who harass people as they come off the freeway or sell food out of carts not licensed by the health department that they want to target.

Formulating an ordinance that differentiates between the two is the problem.

"Some days there are five or six people who come into the store and use high-pressure techniques to sell things to you and your customers," said Mayor Jan Heidt, who owns a bookstore on Lyons Avenue. "It's at the point of harassment."

Bernard, who has been selling hot dogs in Santa Clarita for seven years and has occupied the same corner at Tibbits and Scott avenues for three years, is concerned that a change in ordinance may hurt him.

"We have an investment here," Bernard told the council. "I would be willing to pay a fee as long as everybody does it right."

Bernard said he would be willing to pay "$250, maybe more" for a city permit if it meant regulating street-side vending. As it is, he said after the council meeting, he paid $354 for a permit from the Los Angeles County Health Services Department to sell hot dogs and sodas from his cart.

His customers value him, too, particularly those in the Valencia Industrial Center, which is isolated from virtually any other restaurant.

"It's very handy to have him here, and I'm sure a lot of others feel like me," Margaret Wittmer said as she bought lunch Wednesday for herself and others to take back to her office. "If I don't want to waste my lunch hour driving out somewhere, I come here."

City Council members were adamant Tuesday night about keeping businessmen like Bernard.

"I admire their resourcefulness, and I don't believe I would ever suggest that we adopt an ordinance that would take away their livelihood," Councilman George Pederson said.

"The legal vendors are a small business," Councilwoman Jo Anne Darcy said. "The ones that are not, the ones pushing the shopping carts or other vehicles . . . those are the ones we have to go after."

The city's present ordinance, which forbids vendors along "a public highway within any canyon or within any mountainous section of the city," is too vague and unenforceable, according to the county Sheriff's Department, so a new ordinance is recommended.

The county code, however, bans all vendors, except for catering trucks and peddling for special events, Senior Planner Kevin Michel said, and is too narrow for the city's taste.

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