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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Agreement Nears in Vendors' Dispute

June 18, 1995|STEPHEN GREGORY

Signaling the end of a seven-month feud, two factions of street vendors have reached an agreement that may boost efforts by one of the groups to legalize its trade on the Eastside.

The agreement, reached last month between vendors from the Pico-Union district and another group based in Boyle Heights, settles a nearly yearlong dispute over money, property and documents belonging to the Asociacion de Vendedores Ambulantes, or AVA. Both groups had originally belonged to AVA before philosophical differences split the organization in two factions last summer.

Under the settlement, property such as office furniture and equipment will be divided between the factions, said attorney Kwaku Duren, who represents the Eastside group. In addition, copies of all files will be shared, and the Eastside faction will gain sole possession of the association's name. The Pico-Union group will now be known as Asociacion de Vendedores Ambulantes de Los Angeles or AVALA.

Some of the key files are petitions with scores of signatures supporting legalized vending that organizers collected from Boyle Heights residents and merchants.

The Eastside group hopes to use the signatures to usher in legalized street vending to a four-square-mile area bounded by Marengo Street, Olympic Boulevard, Indiana Street and the Santa Ana Freeway. The step is required by the city as part of the application process to create the district.

The agreement, scheduled to be formalized June 30 in Los Angeles Superior Court, also will end a lawsuit filed last summer by the Eastside group in an effort to take over sole possession of AVA's name and assets.

Among the differences that divided AVA last July were continued police crackdowns on Boyle Heights street vendors despite City Council approval seven months earlier of steps to legalize some street vending in the area. The new requirements have not been implemented, however, and street vending remains illegal in the city.

The dispute came to a head when four of AVA's six board members left the organization in support of outspoken protest against the police action.

The dissenters filed the lawsuit a short time later, and the Legal Aid Foundation--which had represented AVA--took possession of the organization's property and files, including the Boyle Heights signatures, and froze its assets of $25,000 until the matter was resolved.

Under the agreement, the $25,000--made up of a number of individual grants--will be divided between the groups based on the decision by the donors.

Each grant could be divided evenly, given exclusively to one group or even retracted altogether, said attorney Niels Frenzen, who represents the Mid-City faction. Donors have not been contacted about their decision, Frenzen said.

But while the dispute has been settled, its underlying cause--police action against vendors--remains an issue for the Eastside group.

About a dozen street vendors and supporters gathered at a Boyle Heights intersection recently to denounce what they call continued harassment and physical abuse by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollenbeck Division. Javier Rodriguez, who helps coordinate the Eastside group, said police wrongly focus their energies on street vendors "while shootings and drug dealing take place right down the street."

For their part, police deny that they have physically abused any vendors but acknowledge that the curbside merchants are frequently cited for plying their trade.

"The philosophy is we don't respond unless there is a complaint," said Hollenbeck Division Sgt. Alex Salazar. "Business people in the area complain on a daily basis because, obviously, they're losing business to the street vendors."

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