Street vendor activists filed suit in federal court Thursday against the downtown Fashion District Business Improvement District and the Los Angeles Police Department over the confiscation of carts and other personal belongings of street vendors.
The lawsuit, filed in federal Central District Court downtown, alleges that the confiscation of food and merchandise carts is unconstitutional. Specifically, the vendor and civil rights activists say the practice violates both the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures and the 14th Amendment due process clause.
“Every day in Los Angeles, street vendors have their hard earned property illegally confiscated and destroyed,” Cynthia Anderson Barker, attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, said in a statement. “They are penalized as they struggle to support their families. This lawsuit targets unjust law enforcement practices that push these productive members of our community further into poverty.”
In a statement responding to the lawsuit filing, the Fashion Business Improvement District said it has over the years disposed of certain types of trash within the district boundaries, which include 100 blocks roughly bounded by 7th Street to the north, San Pedro Street to the east, the 10 Freeway to the south and Broadway to the west.
“Our policy is not to confiscate or unlawfully take property from any individual,” the statement said. “We simply dispose of perishable, contaminated and abandoned property that would otherwise be left in our district without the BID’s assistance.”
The statement went on to say the BID had a recent discussion with Barker about establishing mutually agreeable parameters for the disposal of trash and that the BID was disappointed that street vendors and their legal assistance partners had chosen to file a lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes amid a push by street vendors for legalization citywide. Currently, street vending is legal only in specially established districts, though none exist now. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council’s economic development committee ordered further study of several options for legalizing street vending across all or portions of the city.