L.A. to spend up to $150,000 to settle street vendor lawsuit

Los Angeles lawmakers have agreed to spend up to $150,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by street vendors who claimed that their carts and other belongings had been improperly seized and destroyed.

Pushcart vendors and their advocates sued the city two years ago, arguing that the Los Angeles Police Department and the Fashion District Business Improvement District, which contracts with cleanup crews, had trampled on their rights by taking away and trashing their belongings.

L.A. lawmakers have repeatedly vowed to legalize and regulate vending, but selling food or goods on the sidewalk is still a violation of the municipal code, punishable with administrative fines.

Up until earlier this year, it also sometimes led to criminal charges. However, attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU of Southern California claimed that vendors were being stripped of their belongings even if they were not being arrested, “a sort of extrajudicial street punishment.”

The Los Angeles City Council voted 11 to 1 on Tuesday to approve spending up to $150,000 to settle the suit, with Councilman Mitch Englander casting the lone vote against the plan. Englander declined to explain why he opposed the decision.

Cynthia Anderson-Barker, one of the attorneys representing the vendors, said the case “restores some dignity to a group that has been mistreated by law enforcement.”

“Law enforcement now recognizes that street vendors have legal rights to their property,” she said in a written statement.

The LAPD referred a request for comment to the city attorney, whose spokesman Rob Wilcox said that although the council had agreed how much it would offer, the settlement “was not finalized yet.”

Fashion District Business Improvement District Executive Director Rena Leddy said that once the deal was completed, the business improvement district would be dismissed from the case and would not have to pay attorney fees to the plaintiffs.

“We are pleased to have been dismissed from the case,” Leddy said in an email.

emily.alpert@latimes.com

Twitter: @AlpertReyes

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