Update on January 12th, 2023
Since the publication of our story covering the boulders placed outside the LACC Swapmeet and the meeting held last Thursday by the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, the swapmeet’s owner, Phillip Dane, of the swapmeet has now publicly told vendors inside the swapmeet to not support their colleagues on the sidewalk.
The statement posted to the LACC Swapmeet website called Thursday’s meeting a witch hunt (against him) continued to tell vendors that those selling outside of the swapmeet were using them and encouraged them to sign a petition to remove vendors outside to save the swapmeet. Then he preceded to announce the removal of four long-time vendors of the LACC Swapmeet, who are no longer allowed on the premises for allegedly going against the swapmeet and for not agreeing with the way things are currently being handled.
“We will not stand for any vendor that acts in a manner that disrupts or has the potential to hurt the swap meet or any personal attacks on my staff, other vendors, or myself. We are a privately held Corporation…If you conspire to cause us harm, we will remove you from selling at the swap meet. There are other places to sell, but we will not be one of them. My staff and I work very hard to be fair and supportive.”
Originally published on January 10th, 2023
Vendors outside the LACC Swapmeet are again organizing to demand their right to sell along Vermont Avenue and Melrose. This was prompted by an incident in late December, where just a few days before Christmas, vendors noticed giant boulders being placed on the sidewalk.
For street vendors vending outside the swapmeet, the boulders were seen as yet another attempt to remove them from the area. Later that same week, a press release via council member Hugo Soto-Martinez confirmed that individuals associated with the LACC swap meet were the ones behind the boulders and No Parking signs appearing.
“Recently, one of these men posed as the Fire Department to deceptively obtain ‘No Parking’ signs. Permits for the signs were sent to our office for approval, which we investigated and quickly denied,” read the statement.
Martinez goes on to thank the Bureau of Street Services, who quickly stepped in to halt the placement of the unpermitted signs and boulders.
This is not the first time different tactics have been used to displace street vendors from the sidewalk outside the swapmeet. Vendors said since the new owner Phillip Dane came into the picture, the issues between them have only worsened. Since 2021 vendors outside have accused Dane and his staff of harassment, discrimination against vendors, and pitting vendors inside against vendors outside. Tensions rose in 2022 when in October, unauthorized fencing and no vending signs were seen going up on the sidewalk.
To help find solutions between the vendors and the swapmeet owner, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council held a meeting on Thursday in which the topic of conversation was a letter written in support of the vendors. The meeting also allowed everyone to discuss the ongoing issues between LACC’s swapmeet owner and street vendors who sell outside. The council gathered to hear from Dane, his vendors, vendors outside the swapmeet, and residents who voiced their concerns. Vendors like Marco Morales, who used been a vendor inside the swapmeet since its inception almost 20 years ago expressed their issues with the new owner.
“When the new owner took over, that was when we began to experience the harassment. He (the owner) accuses us of costing vendors inside money which is not true,” he said in Spanish. “Since the pandemic began, we’ve all collectively suffered economically. He also calls us illegal vendors. That’s a lie. We all have permits.”
Another vendor who also used to sell inside the swapmeet for about 15 years before Dane came along, Claudia Rodriguez, added: “My dad, who also has a stand, was kicked out of the swapmeet because he supported the vendors outside; eventually I was kicked out too, from the start he has had everyone on edge, not just outside but inside too, he has never taken responsibility for any of it.”
Dane was also present at the meeting this past Thursday, where attendees were given three minutes to give their public comments. In seven minutes, Dane once again denied any of the claims made against him and his staff, declaring: “I don’t speak to any of the vendors outside; in a year in a half, we have not interacted with any vendors, neither me nor my staff,” he said
Since he took ownership of the swapmeet, vendors outside have attempted to communicate with the owner, whose only line of communication is via the LACC Swapmeet website, but according to vendors, he has never responded to their request for a meeting. To this, Dane said: “To say that they have been trying to reach me for a year and a half is absolutely ludicrous.”
Despite the multitude of calls made in favor of vendors outside, some of the vendors inside did call in to give their opinion on the situation, like Giana German, who has been a vendor inside LACC for over a decade.
“I think the owner just wants them to sell inside or leave, but they don’t want to,” said German. “It would be nice if there was an agreement that everyone could come to because my family depends on the swapmeet. We all need to work.”
Some of the vendors inside expressed feeling neglected or forgotten regarding the conversation about vendors outside. Many fear that if the issues with the swapmeet’s owner continue, the swapmeet may be shut down.
“I think they are forgetting about us. No one has come inside to ask us about what we think; we count too,” said Rose, a LACC street vendor who called in. “The problem from my perspective is that they (vendors outside) didn’t want to follow the swapmeets rules.”
One caller, Alejandro Quintero, said he is both a long-time resident and a vendor outside and detailed an incident that happened two or three weeks ago in which the fire marshal came after an emergency vehicle was unable to drive down the street.
“Phillip Dane and his crew don’t organize the traffic in the morning; there have been times when the entire street is filled with vendors trying to get into the swap meet,” said Quintero. “I tried to address that with his security, and they have never gotten back to me.”
Quintero said one of the issues he has with the owner is his lack of transparency with the community regarding some of the allegations against him. One of the biggest ones is that he is the mastermind behind all of the attempts made to remove vendors, allegations that included him placing no-street parking signs. Dane denied having any involvement, that was until Quintero requested a public record that showed Dane’s name on the paperwork filed for the signs earlier in 2022. Before leaving the meeting, Quintero added:
“Another issue that we have is he doesn’t work with the community. The previous people that ran the swapmeet would once or twice a month would go around the block talking to the people who lived here and asked us for our opinion on how they can better any issues,” he continued. “Not to mention Vermont had always had street vendors even before he took over. Since the swapmeet has been here, that has always been the case.”
Sergio Jimenez, an organizer from Community Power Collective, also called in, in support of all vendors.
“What I am against is the division that the swapmeet owner has tried to form with vendors inside and outside,” Jimenez said. “Vendors in the Vermont, Melrose area are key to the community, and the attempted displacement by Phillip Dane and the Hollywood bid is an attack on working-class vendors.”
He went on to inform the council about some of the existing vending restrictions brought up by Dane, like the no vending zone and the 500 feet barrier zones that don’t allow vendors to vend in some regions of the city. These zone barriers, he said, are currently being challenged via a lawsuit filed by the L.A. Street Vendors Campaign against the city of L.A. for unlawful and discriminatory no-vending zones that, in its own way, ban vending.
“We fully support vendors inside the swapmeet we know many have taken steps to leave the swapmeet due to hostile staff, but it’s important for them to also know that vending inside a swapmeet is not for everyone,” he said.
Thursday ended with a vote of 7-2 in support of the letter stating the neighborhood council’s support for a fair resolution between both parties. At the moment, if you walk along Monroe, you will still notice giant boulders both inside and outside the LACC swapmeet. It is unclear when all boulders will be removed. L.A. TACO counted more than 20 boulders that have yet to be moved from the sight.
“The letter was approved, and we thank everyone who supports us. For now, we will continue to respect the space and continue working while we wait for a solution,” said Marco the morning after. Organizers like Jimenez from Community Power Collective may have a solution to the ongoing issue regardless of who is right.
“The legalizing of vending in California allows for multiple vending worlds to co-exist; organizing vendors inside and outside could potentially lead to a new community project where vendors themselves can run the swapmeet without someone hostile like Phillip Dane,” he added. “Vendors on city sidewalks won’t go away anytime soon, vendors have deeper roots here than Dane, and he needs to understand that.”