After listening in astonishment to a list of 16 goods sold door-to-door by aggressive peddlers, the Thousand Oaks City Council has voted to crack down on street hawkers and solicitors.
A new law, passed unanimously Tuesday night, will keep vendors out of residential neighborhoods and off intersections and street medians.
The council also voted to charge vendors as-yet-undetermined rent for their use of public streets, probably between $30 and $45 a month. All traveling salespeople will have to carry insurance, a business or solicitor's license, and a city-issued identification card.
Although Thousand Oaks cannot legally ban representatives of political, religious or charitable organizations, residents who want to keep salespeople from knocking need only hang a "no solicitors" sign on their door, City Atty. Mark Sellers said.
The swift decision followed one resident's exasperated description of the myriad vendors who disturb him at home, peddling everything from pork rinds to carpet cleaners to silk flowers to tamales.
"I cannot express to you strongly enough how tired (we) are of hearing the jingle-jangle of bells, the blast of horns and the pounding of doors as these budding entrepreneurs surround us and attack us as if we were some great marketing find," Robert Bickle said.
"If we had wanted to live in the mall, we would have put our money together, bought a strip mall and moved in," said Bickle, representing the Las Casitas Homeowners Assn.
His neighbor, Jeffrey Bock, testified that Las Casitas residents are fed up because their homes seem to attract a disproportionate number of vendors. And he warned council members that "whatever happens in our neighborhood now will happen on your streets next."
The new law, which will go into effect in mid-November, sets out strict guidelines for where and when vendors can work. Most are prohibited from hawking after dusk, and they are not allowed to block off parking spaces for customers or to set up A-frame advertising signs.
Religious, political and charitable organizations, and salespeople pushing newspapers or magazines, are exempt because they are constitutionally protected, Sellers said.
While some small-business managers have said they welcome restrictions on pushcarts, feed-store owner Jeff Alexander told the council that the law did not go far enough. He argued that itinerant vendors should be forced to comply with the same rules as fixed-site enterprises, including stricter limits on their sign sizes.
"Fair is fair," Alexander said. "It's imperative to treat all businesses alike."
To cushion established businesses from competition and further discourage vendors, the council agreed to consider banning peddlers from all public sidewalks in a separate hearing later this year.
Councilwoman Judy Lazar also suggested that the council charge pushcart operators a high rent to use public streets. The council will set the rent after city staff drafts a report detailing the options.