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Slamming the Door on Unlimited Garage Sales


Garage sales are not just a job for Jim Cloar. They are a way of life.

On the Saturday before Christmas, Cloar, 74, sat in his garage, on W. 139th Street near Hawthorne, amid rusted tools and other odds and ends taken on consignment from neighbors. Red signs announcing his sale hung from the opened garage door, flapping in the biting morning breeze.

Cloar rested an arm on the handle of his mechanical wheelchair and waited for customers, just as he has every morning for 13 years, excepting the days "me and the wife go fishing."

"I'm handicapped, see," he said, pulling up his pant legs to rap his knuckles on two wooden limbs. "If I didn't do nothing and just sat around and watched TV, well. . . . In other words, I do this to stay alive."

It's not the money, he said. A good weekend brings in about $40, and he keeps only 10%. "I get to visit with people. They tell me their troubles, and I listen," he said.

Cloar, however, may see such visits sharply curtailed.

Under a plan scheduled to be put to public hearings early this year, residents of unincorporated Los Angeles County would be prohibited from holding more than two garage sales a year. And those holding garage sales would be prohibited from selling anyone else's property and would be allowed to post only one sign to advertise the sales.

"That's ridiculous," Cloar said when he learned of the proposal. He said he would have to rent a place to sell his merchandise. "Who can afford that?"

Some who hold garage sales, however, believe that limits should be imposed.

"It's gotten way out of hand," said Eddie Alamillo, who on Saturday was selling items on his sister's front lawn, several blocks up from Cloar's house.

"I've seen some places like Culver City, where you've got small companies coming in unloading semi-trucks. Garage sales are supposed to be where you sell this kind of stuff," he said, motioning to a heap of used clothes and a stack of records, "not some place where they take MasterCard and Visa."

County supervisors approved the garage sale restrictions last month, but they later referred the ordinance to the Regional Planning Commission after board staffers pointed out that the changes might undermine county zoning regulations.

Dates for the hearings have not been set, but Deputy County Counsel Chuck Moore said he expects them to convene in February. After the hearings, the Regional Planning Commission will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, which will then make a final decision on the garage sale restrictions.

The board's intent, Moore said, is simply to prevent garage sales from disrupting communities.

"It's not like we want to have garage sale cops, but there are some things going on that are messing up some neighborhoods," Moore said. "We're trying to put something on the books to help some really bad situations."

Complaints from East Los Angeles and Azusa spurred Supervisor Gloria Molina to create the ordinance, said John Calas, county planner in charge of zoning violations.

Garage sale restrictions are nothing new for the Los Angeles area, Moore said. "There are city ordinances all over the map on this issue, (in) Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Inglewood," he said. "I will admit that maybe they're not enforced, but there are some very strict ordinances."

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