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L.A. City College swap meet, on the brink of closure, will stay open

One woman buys clothing from another at the Los Angeles City College swap meet.
Eiliana German, right, has been selling clothing at the Los Angeles City College swap meet for 20 years.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City College swap meet, which was on the verge of shutting down after pandemic-related losses, will remain open as new management takes over.

For more than two decades, the weekend swap meet has taken place at a parking lot on the community college campus in East Hollywood. It provides crucial business for vendors and revenue for student scholarships, as well as affordable shopping for low-income residents. This past Sunday was expected to be its last day.

For the record:

12:37 p.m. Aug. 4, 2021A previous version of this article reported that the L.A. City College swap meet was a Sunday event. It operates on both Saturdays and Sundays.

LACC Swap, a company started by L.A. events producer Philip Dane, is taking over the swap meet.

The previous operator, Newport Diversified, decided to close the market after bleeding money during more than a year of closure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Competition from street vendors was also a factor.

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Last week, Dane met with Robert Schwartz, executive director of the L.A. City College Foundation, which leases the parking lot.

Dane plans to keep the swap meet open beginning this Saturday. He said he will not charge as much as Newport, after vendors complained that high fees drove them to set up on nearby sidewalks.

“We’re going to bring some fresh air to this market,” Dane said. “We’re going to really go the distance to make sure that [the vendors] feel secure and that they’re not being displaced from booths that they’ve had for years.”

The pandemic losses were too steep to overcome, and competition from street vendors was the final straw, said the company that runs the swap meet.

The L.A. City College Foundation received 35% of the swap meet’s proceeds and Newport received the rest.

The foundation’s revenue typically funds its operating costs and student scholarships, including the Guardian Scholars Program, which provides youth from the foster care system with tuition, meals and tutoring.

“It’s a staple swap meet in the neighborhood, and when I found out the benefit that the foundation gets from the swap meet — that was enough to get me motivated,” Dane said.

On Sunday, two of Dane’s staff members met with vendors.

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“They’re like, ‘What the hell’s happening? Are we going to get our spaces? Are we out of here?’” Dane said.

One vendor, Juan Carlos Perez, had told The Times that he paid $2,000 for a prominent, high-traffic spot, on top of monthly reservation fees of $110 and daily vending fees of $100.

Dane said he will charge $50 a booth for each day. About 120 vendors — slightly fewer than before — have paid for booths through his new online booking system, he said.

He plans to waive the $1 fee for customers and to invite L.A. City College students to staff the market.

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Dane told his staff to meet with sidewalk vendors and offer them three choices: pay the swap meet fees, move 500 feet away as required by city ordinance or stay and face enforcement.


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