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Lines of cars parked on city streets being offered for sale have prompted the Los Angeles City Council to create an ordinance that would ban the practice on Los Feliz Boulevard and Franklin Avenue.
Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, authored a motion seeking the ban after receiving complaints and witnessing the problem himself. The city council voted Wednesday to have the City Attorney’s Office draft the ordinance and report back to the council on Jan. 26.
Numerous vehicles with for sale signs in the windows have been parked on weekends on Los Feliz Boulevard during recent months. The Department of Motor Vehicles initiated a sting operation on Nov. 6 that resulted in seven vehicles being impounded, six misdemeanor citations being issued, and two people being arrested for interfering with a peace officer. LaBonge said the vehicles prevent residents from parking their own cars on the street, and added that they are a public nuisance. DMV officials said the sales violate state laws, because they are part of a scheme known as “car-flipping” where someone buys a vehicle and then resells it without re-registering the car and paying the required fees.
Although the ordinance would ban the practice only on Los Feliz Boulevard and Franklin Avenues, LaBonge said it could serve as a model for bans in other parts of the city where the problem occurs. Franklin Avenue was included so the owners of the vehicles don’t just move from Los Feliz Boulevard to the next major street to the south. Violating the ordinance would be a misdemeanor, and although the exact penalties have yet to be determined, they would likely include steep fines.
“The significant increase in the selling of used cars has presented a challenge to preserving the safety of the community, as well as a visual blight,” LaBonge said. “It has built up in the last several years. Los Feliz is the de facto Beverly Hills Freeway. There is a high volume of traffic and people like to take advantage of that.”
Officer Eric Sundstrom, with the Northeast Division, said there definitely is a problem with the parked cars for sale, and said he believes the city’s ordinance will address the problem.
“The problem is not a situation where a private resident is just trying to sell their car, the problem is people are running a business,” Sundstrom said. “It’s a huge problem there and it affects the quality of life, and affects available parking. The state of California stepped up enforcement of this several years ago, and now the city is taking steps to address it. It’s very important to have that administrative mechanism to enforce the law.”
Capt. Peter Whittingham, of the LAPD’s Hollywood Division, said the problem is not currently widespread throughout the rest of Hollywood, but there is concern the sales could spread into other areas. Whittingham agreed that the used cars for sale can diminish the quality of life in a particular area, and he said the personnel at the station would begin enforcing the ordinance as soon as it takes effect.
Armando Botello, a public information for the DMV, said car sales on public streets has been a problem statewide for years. He said it is illegal for anyone other than a licensed dealer or the individual registered owner to sell a vehicle. Last year, there were 277 misdemeanor cases filed statewide against people illegally selling used vehicles, but Botello added that the amount is not broken down by county or city. He said the minimum fine upon conviction is approximately $1,000.
“In each case, it was street sales and it usually involved the sale of multiple vehicles,” Botello said. “Not only are they subject to a misdemeanor, they are subject to fines and towing fees for each vehicle.”
Several years ago, the Los Angeles City Council enacted an ordinance restricting the sales of used vehicles on streets citywide, but the ordinance was struck down because a court ruled it violated First Amendment laws. LaBonge said he is confident an ordinance banning the sales only in certain areas would enable the city to uphold free speech laws while mitigating the problem.
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