Protecting Venice Beach From Boardwalk Commerce, Protecting Free Speech by Banning T-Shirts

Here is how debased the political culture of Los Angeles has become. In a city with persistent 12 percent unemployment, where the most popular storefront brand name is "For Lease," the City Council is cracking down–again!–on people who make a living by selling stuff to people who want to buy stuff. And it's actually much dumber than that:

Illegal vendors, the authorities say, bring with them threats of crime and an influx of people eager to sleep on city streets. Storekeepers who rent space on the other side of the Venice boardwalk complain that they are losing customers to the sidewalk sellers, or losing foot traffic altogether.

"This is a real go-to place and people come here from all over the planet, and they were just taking over with junk and cheap trinkets," said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice. "The history here is of free speech, not selling all kinds of nonsense. You'd have people fighting for spots and undercutting the people who play by the rules and pay taxes in their space." [...]

[L]ast year, after a federal court dismissed a city ordinance as unconstitutional, the number of vendors hawking mass-produced items like T-shirts and costume jewelry grew rapidly. Soon, local people said, it was impossible to see the ocean from what is officially called Ocean Front Walk.

A new ordinance that goes into effect on Jan. 20 is intended to forbid only those who are selling items that could be considered to have utilitarian value — that means art is allowed but T-shirts are not. Mr. Rosendahl said that several city and First Amendment lawyers have assured him that the law will stand up in court.

There is almost nothing in that passage above that isn't worthy of 100-proof contempt, from "the authorities say" to "local people said," to the notion that Bill freaking Rosendahl (who was a local cable-access interviewer before ascending to this throne) is a person who should ever be in a position to define where free speech ends and utilitarianism begins.

Whole New York Times story here.

Previously, in debased Los Angeles politics:

* "Los Angeles Destroys Functioning Businesses in a Recession"

* "The Democratic Way of Prohibition"

* "How the Community Redevelopment Agency Is Turning the City of the Angels Back into a Desert"

* "In Soviet Los Angeles, Housing Affordables You"

* "America Pays for Villaraigosa's Transit Legacy"

* "Success: Empty City, No Business, Carpool Lane, Unfinished Job"

* "L.A. Getting Ready for More Big Sports Welfare"

* "Occupy L.A.–The Pro-Government Protesters?"

* "Official L.A.'s Double Standard: One for Occupy Protesters, Another for Those Who Don't Damage Public Property"

* "Taco Truck Takedown: Why Is the LAPD Harassing Food Carts?"

* And who could ever forget "Food Fight: Battle of the Bacon Dogs"?

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A lot of hyperlinks, all about California... Is this an early edition of P.M. Links?

  • sarcasmic||

    This is now government creates jobs.
    By forbidding people to have jobs.

  • ||

    At least they're not a bunch of Christ-Fagging red staters.

  • ||

    They are Obama-fagging ball lickers like me!

  • sarcasmic||

    This is how government creates economic activity.
    By forbidding economic activity.

  • ||

    When I want to know what qualifies as "real art" the first source I turn to is a city councilman.

  • ||

    This is how government creates economic activity.
    By forbidding economic activity.

    "Lawyers created or saved" FTW!

  • ||

    Why the fuck is art utilitarian?

  • ||

    You've taken the opposite: He's saying he wants to ban utilitarian sales (T-shirts) and allow sale of un-utilitarian art (pile of glued together garbage).

  • ||

    Every beach I've ever been to in SoCal was infested with assholes who thought an 8x10 of the sun setting over a palm tree was worth fifty bucks.. and they were usually selling in a tent right next to a good-looking middle-aged hippie chick who thought a fingervpainting of a bowl of fruit was novel.

  • Brett L||

    SoCal, for people dumb enough to live on the street but smart enough to do it somewhere they don't have weather.

  • 35N4P2BYY||

    Ditto for Honolulu.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    T-shirts aren't art?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Illegal vendors, the authorities say, bring with them threats of crime and an influx of people eager to sleep on city streets. Storekeepers who rent space on the other side of the Venice boardwalk complain that they are losing customers to the sidewalk sellers, or losing foot traffic altogether.

    Are we protecting citizens from crime or are we protecting businesses from each other? And technically, legislating brings more crime than any other activity. They make interactions (often reasonable interactions) criminal.

  • WTF||

    Stupid hippies don't want to have to compete with vendors selling stuff people actually want. I'm shocked.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    More like rent-seeking brick and mortar shops want to outlaw hippies selling craft jewelry on the boardwalk.

    ...and they were just taking over with junk and cheap trinkets," said City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice.

    Before I was reppin' LBC, I was reppin' Ozone Ave. in Venice. Even the brick and mortar shops on the boardwalk sell junk and cheap trinkets. It is a tourist destination, nothing more. Shot glasses, mini license plates, and t-shirts are the commodities traded in that market. There is plenty of room for selling craft jewelry, bad watercolor paintings, Jamaican incense, and glass pipes on the boardwalk. Rosendahl is just using fear-mongering, and the power of his office to satisfy the economic desires of his rent-paying constituents. Pay to play, etc.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Laser pointers for five dollars. If you buy two, you can shine them on your teacher's nipples.

  • ||

    So, LA wants to go after undocumented vendors, but not undocumented aliens?

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Here in Ohio our betters are protecting us from internet cafes where people might engage in gambling. Yes, Ohio, the same state that is building casinos as we speak.

  • Brett L||

    I think FL will be joining you in this unless redistricting and the first net positive revenue budget in four years takes all the oxygen from the session.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Casinos pay taxes. Lottery winners pay taxes. Stores with video poker machines pay taxes.

    But the evil online gamblers don't pay taxes, therefore they can't be allowed to gamble.

    The king must have his rents from the peasants.

  • ||

    "This is a real go-to place and people come here from all over the planet, and they were just taking over with junk and cheap trinkets,"

    I haven't been to Venice Beach in decades, but I remember it as a sort of open-air insane asylum.

    It would be a shame to wreck that.

  • Speech is...||

    "The history here is of free speech, not selling all kinds of nonsense."

    Speech is:

    Talking √
    Smoking Pot √
    Burning Flags √
    Eating raw cheese √
    Selling all kinds of nonsense...?

    Why not.

  • Reuben Cohen||

    Look, I think we all agree that the government should not be intervening on which businesses are allowed to operate at this location. But I want to say that I also fully support the people who are upset about this. The way for them to keep these operations out would be through the free market though, not through government, and if enough people supported the cause then these stores would leave. So I don't think the government should get involved, but I agree with the spirit of these people and I would definitely participate in a boycott if one were to be organized.

  • Zeb||

    It might help if they didn't tax and regulate the brick and mortar stores across the street to death so that they could compete with more dynamic rivals. They sort of correctly identify the problem (that the "real" stores can't compete with the vendors, but completely miss on the solution (get rid of the things that keep the stores from being competitive.)

  • GILMORE||

    A new ordinance that goes into effect on Jan. 20 is intended to forbid only those who are selling items that could be considered to have utilitarian value

    Progressive Liberal Says: "UTILITY IS FASCIST"

    So... if I sell rubber screwdrivers... that's just groovy?

    I know Santa Cruz is one of the stupidest places on earth, but this is getting ridiculous

  • CE||

    A new ordinance that goes into effect on Jan. 20 is intended to forbid only those who are selling items that could be considered to have utilitarian value...

    That ought to help the economy....

    Customer: "Why, what a perfectly useless item! I'll take it!"

  • Brett L||

    "Why, what a perfectly useless item! I'll take it!"

    Is this not how eBay works?

  • ||

    Most of these vendors are selling bric-a-brack they bought down town and competing directly against the rent and tax paying vendors on the east side of the boardwalk.

    These changes are long overdue. The unregulated westside boardwalk vending enabled a squatter camp along the beach to thrive.

    Some vendors even pay homeless (mostly substance abusers) to reserve prime places for them. Lose lose for the residents who then have to deal with these people sleeping and defecating in the car ports.

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