Joining about a dozen small Southland cities in an attempt to combat neighborhood blight, the Los Angeles City Council moved Tuesday to restrict yard sales in residential areas, limiting them to daytime hours and prohibiting the sale of new merchandise.
But amendments by liberal lawmakers representing the central city leave Los Angeles with a law far more permissive than some of its neighbors: Residents may have up to five sales totaling 10 days each year, compared with two sales annually in Downey, Artesia, Arcadia and unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County.
"Isn't somebody who's wanting to do it five times a year selling more than their personal effects?" asked Councilman Marvin Braude, who represents parts of the Westside and the San Fernando Valley. "I'm uncomfortable with this. I'm afraid what this is going to do is encourage people to have yard sales five [times] a year."
Eastside Councilman Mike Hernandez countered that in Braude's Brentwood neighborhood the "yards are probably so large it's hard to find sales, [but] in my district they're having sales where they don't even have yards."
"I don't like the direction we're going with this. Nobody's asking, 'Why are we having these sales in the first place?' " Hernandez told his colleagues. "In some neighborhoods, it's because they have extra stuff and they want to recycle it. But in other neighborhoods, it's because they need the pennies. We have to allow for residents to make an honest dollar."
Despite disagreements over how many yard sales is too many, the council approved the new ordinance 9 to 1, requiring its return next week for a final vote.
The lone dissenter was Councilman Nate Holden. "There are people who will abuse or break a law no matter what," Holden said. "In my district, there are many that have them every weekend. I guess you have to have some, but five is more than we need."
Originally, the Planning Commission and the council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee drafted an ordinance that would limit residents to twice-yearly garage or yard sales that last no more than two days each. But in July, Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg said two was not enough for residents of small homes or apartments in her Hollywood district, and amended it to five.
In addition to limiting the number, the new law says the sales may be held only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and requires that they be "confined to . . . used items which were originally received or purchased for use in the household."
The new ordinance would be enforced by the Building and Safety Department, but officials said the city would depend on community residents to report violators rather than have government workers keeping track of the number of sales per site.
"Let's face it, it is a violation of zoning law," Councilman Hal Bernson, planning committee chairman, said of the perpetual sales that plague some neighborhoods. "People who buy a home in a residential neighborhood expect it to be residential, not commercial."
Councilman Richard Alarcon recalled a house in his former North Hills neighborhood that had its pool covered over and tables laden with merchandise permanently set up there. "People are abusing the privilege of the simple concept of having a garage sale, selling some of your discards that someone can still make use of," he said. "We're not going after the people who just want to get rid of a few things."
The city of Los Angeles already requires anyone with more than two sales per year to obtain permits and pay taxes, officials said.
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Cracking Down on Garage Sales
The city of Los Angeles is not alone in regulating garage sales. Here is a sampling of yard sale polices in other cities.
* Los Angeles County: Allows only two garage sales a year, with each sale not to exceed two consecutive days and limiting the hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
* Arcadia: Allows two garage sales per year.
* Artesia: Requires a $25 business permit, which allows one sale every six months. Sales are limited to half of any front lawn.
* Beverly Hills: Requires a $25 permit, good for two days. No signs other than a three-square-foot, city-issued sign are permitted. Sale items may be displayed in the garage or in the side and rear yard.
* Downey: Requires a $5 permit, allowing two sales a year.
* El Monte: Allows two sales per year.
* Maywood: Requires a $10 permit, allowing two sales per year.
* Monterey Park: Requires $5 permit, allowing two sales per year.