SANTA ANA — In an effort to crack down on illegal businesses and clean up neighborhoods, the Santa Ana City Council endorsed a plan Monday to limit garage sales to four designated weekends each year--one every three months.
If the ordinance is approved, anyone holding a sale outside the four designated weekends could have their goods impounded by the city.
Rather than vote on a previously drafted ordinance limiting the sales to two weekends in May and two in October, Councilman Ted R. Moreno asked that the four weekends be spaced evenly throughout the year to accommodate residents who might be moving from their homes. The council will take up the issue again next month.
The sales are a constant occurrence in some Santa Ana neighborhoods, where residents scatter worn clothing, used appliances, furniture, tires and televisions across front lawns, driveways and commercial parking lots, hoping to earn a few dollars.
More than half a dozen people spoke in favor of the crackdown Monday, complaining that some residents hold garage sales weekly--if not more often--and should be required to obtain business licenses and operate in commercial zones.
"Santa Ana is looking like a Third World country. . . . I hope the City Council takes some action and bans yard sales," said resident George Estrada.
"When you see people that have nine television sets, seven baby strollers and nine bedroom sets, that's not a yard sale," resident Betty Biner said. "I think it's become a disgrace and a blight on the city."
Council members and Santa Ana's numerous city-sponsored neighborhood associations have overwhelmingly supported a measure cracking down on the garage sales.
For many, however, the sales are an occasional practice that bring in needed dollars and serve a community of low-income shoppers who don't have cars to get to the closest swap meet or cannot afford the prices of secondhand stores.
Gilbert Belmontes, a resident of southwest Santa Ana, urged the council not to restrict the sales, and to focus instead on more serious problems plaguing the city. Belmontes said he holds garage sales in order to show his children what it means to earn an honest dollar in difficult times, he told the council.
"This is an honest way to do things. You are hitting at the people who are suffering the most economically, who make up the very core of this city," he said.
He said the people who abuse the privilege and turn the sales into businesses should not be allowed to "ruin" the majority's right to earn a few dollars.
Code enforcement officials estimate there are between 300 and 500 garage sales on any given weekend day, making it far too cumbersome to enforce existing law, which allows only two garage sales a year per address.
That law, adopted in 1990, said garage sales could be held on three consecutive days, and restricted the goods to those of a "household nature." As outlined by the council Monday night, the new ordinance would restrict the sales to four designated Saturdays and Sundays.
Councilman Thomas E. Lutz also asked for a provision allowing churches, organizations like the Boy Scouts, and neighborhood associations to continue to hold sales as fund-raisers.