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Antonovich Urges Less Severe Limits on Garage Sales

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Saying proposed restrictions on garage sales would hit residents with the force of a “sledgehammer,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich on Monday suggested much less stringent limits.

Instead of restricting residents to two garage sales a year, as Supervisor Gloria Molina’s ordinance would do, Antonovich proposed that residents be allowed to hold up to 18 yard sales annually.

“With unemployment on the rise, our residents should not be handcuffed in their efforts to further stretch already tight budgets,” Antonovich said.

But a spokesman for Molina, whose proposal was tentatively approved last week on a 4-1 vote by the Board of Supervisors, said the more restrictive limit is necessary because many residents have complained that neighbors are turning their front lawns into outdoor swap meets.

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“They’re not just cleaning out their garage or attic, they’re selling what appears to be brand-new merchandise fresh out of the crate, week after week after week,” said Robert Alaniz, Molina’s spokesman. “We think two is enough--kind of like spring and fall cleaning.”

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today for the second and final time on Molina’s proposed ordinance, which would apply only to the 970,000 residents who live in unincorporated areas of the county.

In addition to the twice-a-year limit on the number of garage sales, the law would restrict residents to one on-site sign advertising the sale. In contrast, Antonovich has suggested that no limits be placed on the number of signs.

Under Molina’s proposal, first- and second-time offenses would be punishable by a fine similar to a parking ticket. Frequent offenses would be considered misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to a $1,000, Alaniz said.

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Her proposal also states that proceeds from joint sales held by a group of neighbors would have to be donated to charity, a provision Antonovich called “an infringement of an individual’s right of association.”

But Alaniz said Molina intended only to exempt charities from the restrictions, not to restrict joint sales. The wording of the ordinance will probably be changed so there is no confusion, said Deputy County Counsel Charles J. Moore, who wrote the text of the law.

“We’re not trying to police garage sales, but to restrict true commercial activities in neighborhoods,” Moore said.

If the county adopts an ordinance, it would join Rosemead and other jurisdictions that have responded to the proliferation of garage sales in recessionary times by passing laws governing them. Rosemead allows residents to hold only four garage sales annually.

The county’s nine zoning enforcement officers would enforce the ordinance if it passes. John Calas, the planner in charge of zoning enforcement, said he welcomes specific restrictions because the district attorney’s office has said it cannot prosecute even egregious cases without them.

“We have laws that prohibit commercial activity in residential neighborhoods, but commercial activity is usually conducted constantly, not intermittently like garage sales,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. William Woods. “If garage sales are a problem for some communities, then they have to clarify how many you can have.”


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