Council Committees Approve Plan for Street Vending Permit System

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Los Angeles City Council committees approved a comprehensive plan Wednesday for a regulated permit system for street vending, which would end the city’s distinction as the nation’s only major municipality that bans the practice.

The City Council in February voted to stop making street vending punishable with a misdemeanor criminal charge, although it is being penalized through citations as the council works on the permit system for the industry.

The proposal for the permit system was drafted by the Chief Legislative Analyst  (CLA) and was approved without objection at a joint meeting of the Economic Development Committee and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee.Vendedor Ambulante

“It’s alarming to know that we are the largest city without a vending policy,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “If you look, cities around the world have vending policies that work for everyone. This is exactly our end goal, and today the system is a failure, it’s an embarrassment.”

The permitting proposals include provisions such as limiting vendors to two per block in many locations. While some of the provisions are opposed by vendors, there has been wide support in the industry for the effort to decriminalize street vending.

One provision sparking debate would require businesses on a block to sign a letter of approval allowing the vendor to operate, which is something the council had recommended previously. Although the CLA report did not state a preference on the issue, it said if the council wished to adopt it, the panel should consult with the city attorney in closed session as to the provision’s legality.

The committees added an amendment to the report that would direct the city attorney and CLA to consider allowing businesses to opt out of having vending on their block rather than having all businesses sign a letter opting in.

The idea of requiring businesses to opt in or allowing them to opt out has been opposed by some street vending organizations and advocates.

“We strongly support a comprehensive sidewalk vending program, but we are concerned about a proposal that would require vendors to obtain permission of brick-and-mortar businesses, whether consent or dissent,” Doug Smith, an attorney at Public Counsel, told the committee. “This is an unfair burden to the vendor applicant and could lead to increased instances of extortion.”

The CLA report outlines a plan to create a list of additional “non-vending” areas that may include alleys and city-owned property, while creating a process for certain streets to be named “non-vending” areas by City Council action.

The estimated cost for potential enforcement models contained in the report could range between $3.37 million to $5.87 million. To recover those costs through permit fees of $125, between 26,950 and 46,885 certificates would have to be issued.

The report also estimates that the first year of operation for legalized street vending could cost a vendor between $2,932 and $21,861 in overhead due to equipment purchases, fees, permits, insurance and inspection costs, although it recommends a number of ways to reduce the cost to vendors, including exploring the feasibility of contracting with a manufacturer that would produce carts that have already received plan-check approval from the county.

The report also recommends that once the total number of available vending locations has been determined by the council, that the Economic and Workforce Development Department be instructed to develop a lottery system that reserves a percentage of the certificates of operation for disadvantaged individuals.

The report recommends banning vending near schools unless only fruits and vegetables are being sold, and also banning it near popular venues like Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Bowl.

One of the motivations for the City Council to legalize street vending and create the permit system was concern that leveling misdemeanor criminal charges against vendors could make some undocumented immigrants a target for deportation.

“I think the city of L.A. and this council has come a long way in terms of our view of street vendors. A few years ago, I didn’t think we would be having this conversation,” Councilman Jose Huizar said in February.

“But the environment is correct — whether it’s the environment nationally or here locally — acknowledging the benefits that street vendors bring to us and the acknowledgment that we should bring them out of the shadows to contribute to the economy,” he said.

The “national environment” Huizar alluded to was President Donald Trump’s stated intention to increase deportations of immigrants in the country illegally.

The committees also approved a second motion that would amend the Los Angeles Municipal Code in a section that is still being used by enforcement agencies continue to cite vendors for “peddling” from vehicles or push carts, as the section was not included in the previous two sections that were altered to decriminalize vending.

Big Pay Hikes OK’d for LADWP Workers

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Members of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s most powerful union will see a significant bump in pay, with the City Council’s approval Wednesday of a new contract for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18.

The deal was approved 11-3 despite three council members’ objections to the speed with which it came to the council for a vote, having skipped a committee hearing after the Board of Water and Power Commissioners approved the contract last week.

Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell, David Ryu and Mike Bonin, who cast the dissenting votes, said they felt the process lacked transparency.

“The approval of this plan without greater discussion, public outreach or deeper analysis undermines the public’s trust in their local government,” Ryu said.

Bonin said he learned the details of the deal and that it was coming to a vote though the media

“I’m disturbed, as are a few others, by this process, and there is still information I feel I don’t have,” Bonin said.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who ultimately voted for the deal, also said he learned of the contract details through the media.

“This process stunk. One cannot assume approval of a contract without proper vetting. We heard about this contract through a number of media reports.

In the five years I’ve been here through city contracts, my office and myself were at least briefed on what to expect,” Buscaino said.

The deal, which has the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti, continues the practice of union workers not contributing toward their health care costs — a benefit not enjoyed by all city workers.

The new contract has been criticized by some as being too generous — to the point that it could cause other city unions to ask for raises — as well as for being fast-tracked to a vote.

The contract gives six raises over five years for the IBEW Local 18’s 9,000 members at a total rate of about 13 percent to 22 percent, depending on the consumer price index. It also ends the union’s $4 million controversial annual contribution to two nonprofits, the Joint Training Institute and the Joint Safety Institute, which have been heavily criticized due to a lack of transparency as to how they were spending and tracking the money.

The contract will cost an estimated $56 million annually, but will not impact the city’s general fund as it will be funded via adjustments to the LADWP’s budget, according to an LADWP commission memo.

Fred Pickle, executive director of the LADWP’s Office of Public Accountability, said because the department routinely comes in under budget each year, the raises would not likely result in higher rates for customers.

When Garcetti ran for mayor in 2013, one of his chief issues was a promise to bring sweeping changes to the LADWP. That pledge made him an enemy of the IBEW, which spent $2 million supporting his opponent, then-City Controller Wendy Greuel. Once elected, Garcetti blocked the approval of a four-year contract with the IBEW so he could renegotiate a new deal that resulted in no raises for the union.

“Public unions are major donors to City Hall political campaigns, so perhaps it should be no surprise if elected officials are reluctant to drive a hard bargain. But this contract could sure use more analysis and public debate,” the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board wrote while also criticizing Garcetti for not driving a harder bargain this time around after his landslide re-election in March.

Interim Chief Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn said the deal was not a template for future deals with other unions and contended the raises are needed to keep LADWP workers from leaving to work for other cities.

An audit of the LADWP released earlier this year by City Controller Ron Galperin found that the utility spends about $40 million a year on apprenticeship programs that only graduate about 51 percent or fewer of their enrollees, and that many of the graduates go to other utilities to get better salaries.

“This contract moves us in the direction of much-needed reforms, specifically ending ratepayer funding of the two nonprofit training institutes that I audited in 2015, and offering a retention incentive for certain workers who are expensive to train and frequently lured away by private utilities,” Galperin said. “At the same time, I’m not convinced that all of the across-the-board increases were justified by the need to attract and retain employees at the DWP. We must be watchful stewards of ratepayer money.”

Llewellyn said the elimination of the payment to the two institutes was a big win for the city.

When pressed by some council members as to why the city didn’t push harder on healthcare contributions, Llewellyn said, “We pushed on everything … We pushed on everyone, and they pushed back on everyone. And we ended up in the middle with what I believe is a reasonable deal.”

Copyright © 2017 Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews, Inc. ·