By Edwin Folven, 5/18/2011
Law Bans Used Car Sales on Some
People who park cars on Los Feliz Boulevard or Franklin Avenue in Hollywood with the intent of selling their vehicles will face fines of up to $500 and costly impound fees under a new city ordinance.
The city began enforcing the ordinance on May 13 on Los Feliz Boulevard between Western Avenue and the Golden State (5) Freeway, and on Franklin Avenue between Western Avenue and Normandie Boulevard. Los Feliz residents had become fed up with what some called “a used car lot” being staged every weekend in their neighborhood. The law currently only addresses specific problems on the two streets, but city officials believe it will be expanded to additional areas if the problem begins occurring in other places.
“This is a quality of life issue, and a public safety problem. Los Feliz is the defacto freeway into Hollywood, and when you have a used car lot here, it’s unsafe,” said Los Angeles City Councilmem-ber Tom LaBonge, 4th District. “I want to go to Felix Chevrolet if I’m in the market for a car or truck. I don’t want the dealership out on the street.”
Los Feliz Boulevard resident Marilyn Bush said the problem of people selling used cars on the street has been going on for more than a decade, and that sometimes dozens of vehicles being offered for sale have been parked there on weekends. LaBonge and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said although the new law pertains to anyone selling a car, the main perpetrators on Los Feliz Boulevard are known as “car flippers”, or individuals who buy vehicles and then resell them for profit without ever registering the cars in their names.
“The problem has been horrendous,” Bush said. “The used car dealers and car flippers that buy the cars at auction and then sell them on public streets have been causing problems here for a long time. The problem is now ninety percent solved with the new law, but they will probably just find another place to sell the cars.”
Deputy City Attorney Mike Nagle said the law was written in a way that allows for new areas to be added. The city’s ordinance, which was authored by LaBonge, is based on a state vehicle code section that allows cities to pass laws regulating vehicle sales on city streets, but only in specific areas. While new areas can be added, the city must have evidence that the car sales are taking place, and the city council must consider each area on a case-by-case basis.
Nagle said the city previously had a similar law in place during the 1990s and early 2000s, but it was invalidated in 2001 after the ACLU won a lawsuit against the city that challenged the ordinance on the grounds that it covered too much area. Nagle said the state vehicle code section addresses the issues outlined in the lawsuit by allowing cities to only prohibit sales in certain areas.
Nagle said people who experience a problem in their neighborhoods should report it to their city council district office, which will notify the city attorney’s office. He said the city will need evidence that the problems are occurring, and encouraged residents to supply photographs or other documentation.
“The court is going to want to see evidence, and then we can address this and expand the areas involved,” Nagle said.
Trutanich said his office will aggressively prosecute anyone repeatedly caught selling vehicles on the streets, and said he hopes new areas can be added to the list quickly.
“We want a situation where they just can’t move around to a new location, and that is what we are working on right now,” Trutanich said. “I expect that this law will spread throughout the city. The message we want to send is that if you are using the streets of Los Angeles to sell your car, you are out of business.”
Nagle added that violators will face a $100 fine on the first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third violation. If a vehicle is ticketed and remains on the street, it can be impounded.
Individuals who sell vehicles on public streets can also face misdemeanor charges.
It is illegal for anyone other than a licensed dealer or the individual registered owner to sell a vehicle, and last year, there were 277 misdemeanor cases filed statewide.
Ron Ostrow, president of the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council, added that he hopes the new regulations on Los Feliz Boulevard will make a difference.
“It is not just a question of illegal commerce, it is a question of public safety,” Ostrow said. “When people are standing in traffic or writing down numbers, it threatens everyone’s public safety.”