Reactions by park goers at Echo Park Lake were mixed yesterday to a park now vendor-free after last week's police crack down on an outdoor market authorities say was operating illegally.
Echo Park Lake, once swarming with hordes of swap meet vendors and shoppers on Sundays, was sparsely filled with a few dozen people. Some couples held hands and strolled along the banks of the lake, while families barbecued steaks and relaxed on the grassy knolls. Gone were the piles of used clothing, old laptops, power tools, food carts and other miscellaneous items sold by vendors that lined the sidewalks of the park.
"Honestly, I thought the swap meet added a lot of flavor to the neighborhood," said Dan Taylor, 32, of Echo Park, who was walking his dog. "I don't know why it was such a big deal."
Another park goer echoed Taylor's sentiments.
"I think every person should have a right to sell their stuff," said 27-year-old Maria, who declined to give her last name.
She said she has been coming to the park for more than 14 years and knew some of the vendors.
"They had families and weren't bugging anybody," she said.
Reyna Ruiz, 38, of Echo Park, disagreed.
"It should never have been here," Ruiz said. "The park looked too nasty because the vendors would leave trash around."
On the other side of the lake, Officer Joseph Torrance and Sergeant Joel Miller of LAPD's Rampart Division began patrolling at 8 a.m. looking to see if any vendors would return from last week's sweep.
Officer Torrance said about half a dozen people did try to set up in the morning but quickly left when they saw the officers.
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"For the most part, people have been understanding," Sgt. Miller said. "We've had over two dozen people come up today to thank us for how beautiful the park looks."
Recently, The Eastsider LA reported that Deputy City Attorney Andre Quintero and the LAPD were not on the same page on the Echo Park swap meet issue. The city attorney's office had said they were unaware of the sweep and waiting for adjudication with a separate lawsuit with unlicensed vendors before taking action, so as to be on firmer legal ground.
Sgt. Miller told the Weekly that the ordinance in question was invalidated in 1974 and citations handed out to some vendors last Sunday would not be enforced.
Instead, police are now using a state law requiring sellers to have a permit to keep vendors out of the park, Miller said.