The Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission tabled a city ordinance last week by splitting the vote 2-2. The draft ordinance, 42.15, was drafted by the City Attorney's to regulate the Venice Boardwalk.
It should be approved sooner rather than later, for a number of reasons.
For one, Venice Residents on Ocean Front Walk should be able to enjoy quiet enjoyment of their premises. The ordinance will allow set up and space occupation only after 9 a.m. The boardwalk must be cleared of vendors by sunset.
There are noise restrictions throughout the day. Although 75 decibels at 25 feet seems loud (about the volume of a vacuum cleaner), anybody who settled into an apartment on the boardwalk has to have known how noisy that area is.
The draft recognizes that public safety is an issue on OFW and that pushcarts and stands be restricted to the 205 designated areas to allow for effective crowd control and access by first responders. This summer, without an ordinance being enforced, vendors effectively blocked many of the boardwalk's emergency routes.
Throughout the ordinance, protection of the First Amendment right to free speech is repeatedly invoked. The ordinance states that the items sold must be inherently communicative.
I will not lament the loss of swap-meet style vending of sunglasses and trinkets on the west side of OFW. Unfortunately, this also means that purveyors of handmade jewelry will be prohibited from selling there, since jewelry hasn't been found to be "inherently communicative."
There is potential conflict brewing as vendors dash for their spaces at 9 a.m., but there is a provision included in the ordinance to develop an allocation system, and there are some steps towards managing who gets what.
In the double-sized spaces set aside for performance, performers have to vacate on the hour if another performer is waiting. Rotating keeps the performances fresh. It makes sense to specify a time on the clock to avoid disputes.
Some of the designated spaces will be for people predominantly "giving away food" presumably to encourage this activity.
If this ordinance is adopted, we’ll never see another boardwalk fire eater (open flame prohibition) or chain saw juggler (too noisy) but overall the ordinance looks like a good compromise.
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