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Vendor Lawsuit: Community Power Collective v. City of Los Angeles

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Legal Rulings

With recent protests and marches occurring over this sidewalk vendor case this past March, Community Power Collective et al v. City of Los Angeles, et al. is generating a lot of interest.  Partner Valerie Escalante Troesh and our team of experts in code compliance are tracking this case.  For reference and for those unfamiliar with this lawsuit, below are some key points to stay abreast of this lawsuit making its way through the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Case Background

Various groups and individuals (“Petitioners”) sued the City of LA, the LA City Council, and the Bureau of Street Services (“City”) for a writ of mandamus and injunction compelling the City to withdraw and cease all enforcement provisions of a recent vending Ordinance they passed, to cancel/expunge past citations and Notice of Violations issued, and reimburse or cancel fines/penalties imposed. This type of action seeks to compel the public agency to take a certain kind of action.  It is not a damages case.

On March 16, 2023, there was a court hearing for the Judge to decide whether the Petitioner’s Petition (the legal document initiating the lawsuit, like a complaint) set forth sufficient facts to move forward in response to the City’s demurrer (challenge to the petition).  Ruling on a demurrer is not the ultimate decision in the case.  If a demurrer is denied, it just means that the Petition may stay in court and can go to ultimate hearing for a final decision. If a demurrer is granted, it usually means that Petitioner’s can try to re-file their Petition with new/additional facts.For that hearing, the Court issued a tentative ruling on this demurrer—meaning an initial decision that the Court could change after hearing oral argument—finding that the Petitioner’s Petition was sufficient and could move forward.  The Court ultimately stuck with its tentative decision.

Key Factors for Points of Reference

Some helpful points of reference can be gleaned from the tentative ruling.   First, the scope and kind of sidewalk vending ordinance is unique: it created No-Vending Zones.  The City of LA adopted an ordinance after SB 946 passed that prohibited vending with 500 feet of eight specified locations; these locations are the most vibrant and lucrative retail venues (“No Vending Zones”).  The Petition claimed that there was no data supporting any overcrowding issues in the No Vending Zones, which was the rationale by the City of LA’s ordinance.  The Petition claimed that the 500 feet buffer was not analyzed specific to each location to protect pedestrians, but rather was to protect brick and mortar locations.  Petitioner Alvarado received 30 citations from the City for vending in the No Vending Zones and Petitioner Monroy received NoVs.

In response, the City submitted a November 2017 report and the Ordinance.  The Court found that the City—on demurrer—did not connect its documents to the requirements of SB-946.  The Court did not believe that the City showed that the City’s No-Vending Zones imposed restrictions directly related to objective health, safety or welfare concerns, e.g., no information showed why the No Vending Zones were selected, what overcrowding occurred there, why the 500 foot barrier was selected, and whether sidewalk vending is directly related to the concern.

Thus, the tentative ruling of the Court was to allow the Petition to move forward to ultimate hearing on these issues.

Considerations

Though this ruling is not the final decision on the substantive merits of the case, jurisdictions can and should take away a few helpful considerations:

  1. Courts and the law will look at whether a jurisdiction has sufficient data (like studies, analysis, research) within its community to tie any sidewalk vendor regulation to objective health, health, safety or welfare concerns.
  2. SB 946 governs sidewalk vending and jurisdictions should ensure their sidewalk vending regulations comply with this law.

CONCLUSION

The text of Senate Bill 946 can be accessed here.

This bill, now law since 2018, regulated sidewalk vending state-wide and placed key provisions for local agencies when regulating sidewalk vending.  Our attorneys work closely with jurisdictions on the impacts of SB 946, draft ordinances in compliance with SB 946, and work with various stakeholders to ensure sidewalk ordinances are consistent with the law and tailored to each community’s needs.

Valerie and our team of attorneys and paralegals are monitoring this suit and other developments in the vending sphere and we are here to help with legal needs.

DOWNLOAD

For a copy of the court’s original tentative ruling directly from the court, click here.  

About the Author

  • Civica Law

    With over 75 collective years of experience, Civica Law has helped cities and counties abate thousands of dangerous and substandard properties, improve housing conditions, and effectively deal with a wide range of quality-of-life issues, from homeless encampments to cannabis, drug, and gang dens to illegal gambling (or tap-tap) facilities, illegal business operations, human trafficking and massage, land use, and zoning, and virtually every other conceivable quality of life and safety issue a public agency may face.