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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Officials Deny Plea to Reopen Swap Meet

October 30, 1994|ENRIQUE LAVIN

Faced with neighborhood complaints that it was an eyesore, the swap meet at the southeast corner of Vernon and Central avenues has lost a battle with the city to continue operating.

The city permanently shut down the open-air bazaar four weeks ago, denying property owner Rodrigo Lazo and swap meet manager Juan Castaneda a renewal of conditional-use permits. A recent follow-up meeting at Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rita Walters' office to reach a compromise was unsuccessful.

"We are backing up our community, which said the swap meet was unsightly," said Jan Perry, Walters' chief of staff and the mediator at the meeting.

The nonprofit Vernon-Central Neighborhood Housing Services and the United Block Participation Involvement, two groups of residents seeking to spruce up the area, claimed that the six-year-old swap meet contributed to blight in the community.

"There was a lot of trash being thrown into the next lot, which makes the community look ugly," said Richard Marshall, 72, a member of the United Block group. "We are just trying to make the neighborhood look better . . . That's why the vending needs to be controlled."

The closing of the swap meet has left about 20 people out of work, said Castaneda, including himself and his wife. They earned about $80 to $100 a day selling baby clothes.

"Right now no one is working. Most of the vendors are going to the Carta de Oro meet on San Pedro and Slauson, but only on weekends," he said.

For 52-year-old Piofilo Mata and his wife, it has been just as tough. Mata said that instead of selling secondhand clothes for $60 to $80 a day, he and his wife collect recyclable items for $7 to $15 a day. "If it wasn't for the kindness of our landlord, we wouldn't have a place to stay," said Mata, who said he's been saving pennies to pay the rent.

At the meeting, city officials and outside organizations offered alternatives for the vendors and for Lazo. But neither the vendors nor the property owner are pleased with the suggestions, which included seeking loans to develop the property.

"Why do they have to pressure me with what I do with the property," said Lazo, who's owned the parcel for 10 years. "Instead of giving incentives to people, they put you down. South-Central is not Beverly Hills, so we have to plan and do business accordingly. An open-air swap meet is something good for the area. It might not be good for Beverly Hills, but we're not in Beverly Hills."

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