SOUTH : City Seeks Tighter Rules on Swap Meets

After heavy debate over a proposed ordinance that some said would loosen regulations on swap meet operators, the City Council voted to send it back to committee for fine-tuning.

The measure would allow some operators to run their swap meets without obtaining a conditional-use permit. Some council members vehemently objected to loosening restrictions because they say the proliferation of bazaars in South Los Angeles has spawned litter and traffic problems.

To ease neighborhood congestion, the ordinance would require swap meets to provide five parking spaces for each 1,000 square feet of floor space, and restrict them to one vendor per 200 square feet. It would also exempt small swap meets in which six or fewer vendors occupy 45% of a property.

The council voted 14-0 to send the ordinance back to the Planning and Land Management Committee for further review.


At the Aug. 10 meeting, Councilwoman Rita Walters said “there are swap meets on top of swap meets” in her district, which includes South Los Angeles. Walters blamed swap meet vendors for contributing to the decay of neighborhoods.

Howard Gantman, an aide to Walters, said the councilwoman regularly receives calls from residents around Vernon and Central avenues complaining about parking problems, noise, litter, loitering and increased crime surrounding a swap meet there. But Juan Castaneda, who manages the swap meet at the site, disputed those claims.

“The complaint (Walters) has with us is that we supposedly give a bad image to the city,” Castaneda said. “But in an economically strapped area we are helping 20 to 25 people work, people who want to work.”

One South-Central vendor agreed that the swap meet helps the surrounding community.


“The ones that complain are the big businesses in the area, not the neighbors,” said Ines Yanes, 35, an area resident who uses the Vernon-Central property to sell goods. “We serve the community with lower prices. We are not rich people, and our average shopper is also poor.”

Vendors at the corner swap meet pay $8 a day per lot and take home an average of $60 to $70. “And we pay taxes,” Yanes said. “This is what we live off of.”