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Federal judge blocks some Venice boardwalk restrictions on performers, vendors [Updated]


A federal judge has issued a ruling that blocks portions of a Los Angeles ordinance designed to regulate performers and vendors along the Venice Beach boardwalk.

U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson issued the preliminary injunction last week, effectively stating that the city's permitting and lottery system for Venice boardwalk performers and sellers violates the 1st Amendment.

[Corrected, 5 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the judge as Dean D. Pragerson.]

The ruling involved a 2008 ordinance that required performers and vendors to seek permits through a lottery system between Memorial Day and Nov. 1 to sing, dance and sell items along the boardwalk.

In blocking the ordinance, Pregerson noted the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a similar permitting system in Seattle was unconstitutionally broad and only marginally regulated vendors, which the appeals court said could be achieved through "less intrusive means."

"There is no explanation as to why this system manages conflicting claims to limited space any more effectively than a simple first-come-first-served rule," Pregerson wrote in his 27-page ruling.

The judge also struck down a City Council rule barring the use of musical instruments or amplified sound between 9 a.m. and sunset in designated areas.

The ordinance grew out of complaints by residents and business owners that unregulated vending affected the character, safety and economic vitality of the Venice Beach boardwalk.

The ruling pertained to 2008 and 2009 revisions of sections of the municipal code governing the boardwalk. Those policies were challenged by 13 street performers who earned money on the beach by dancing, singing, painting, unicycling and playing music, as well as accepting donations for items related to their performances and causes.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Venice Beach. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (17)

The judge is the Honorable Dean D. Pregerson, not Pragerson.

The City knew this ruling would turn out this way, so the question is why did the city allow this to begin with, is it always the same of gvt, it creates law it knows is unconstitutional and imposes sanctions in the meantime creating hardships, trampeling the rights of law abiding citizens excercise their rights?

I lived on Rose a few houses from the boardwalk for three years but moved from there because of all the stench, loudness and just over all disgusting behavior by people. The often heard refrain "but it's Venice" , is just an excuse for sloppy people and oddball losers to reign supreme. A bunch of people who never got enough attention in life so they act like idiots.
The boardwalk is disgusting and sad because it could be so nice but all the riff raff chase the good people away. People fromk all over L.A. come there on weekends to dump on the place and leave.
Even most of the retail brick mortar places are owned by leeches and parasites who don't even live in the neighborhood. They just want to take money and not give anything back. The whole place is a mess and it gets old really quickly.

The thing is, this realy does affect the businesses that are paying rents and own property on the boardwalk. Their overhead is higher. What happens is that the people selling tjings at tables, take customers and money away from people that have store fronts. I know that Venice has a Bohemian way of life, but fair is fair. And to me it seems that the Judge chose one group of people over another, while the city was trying to protect the established businesses in the area.

In the last few years many of my favorite vendors and performers have disappeared - don't know enough about the lottery system to judge whether it was one of the causes or slowed the losses down. VB boardwalk is a treasure whose character should be protected.


Pregerson spent many hours consulting with City Officials and listening to stakeholders to help them draft the ordinance he's just struck down. It's not obvious how this could have happened.

There is a related issue that has not been addressed that can lead to more problems for the City. The noise experienced in many of those homes from the outdoor performances on the Ocean Front Walk in the residential neighborhood starting a short block east of the Ocean Front Walk has been intrusive because it's a lot louder than can be easily ignored. When the issue of the noise causing unwanted listening inside of residents' homes in the adjacent neighborhood was presented to him during the public discussions, he said it was the residents' problem to resolve with the City, and had nothing to do with his concerns about what was happening on the Ocean Front Walk. Attractions on Ocean Front Walk that have been introduced within the last ten years have greatly increased the degree and duration and frequency of this intrusive noise but the City has refused to help, claiming that residents cannot be protected from noise originating from performances in a free speech area -- the First Amendment prevents them from helping.

People should be able to do what they want when they want where they want. FREE COUNTRY RIGHT?

Let's have some of these vagrant performers and vendors go to the judges house. Be sure to bring the amplified music. Hey, free country.

I think I'll invite these people over to my house. They look like the type of people I would want in my neighborhood.

Tragedy of the Commons, here we come. The boardwalk is a great place for everyone to perform and make money, so when everyone does it, it ruins it for everyone.

Janet Reno and Bill Clinton fired all 93 US Attorneys, including the prosecutor in Little Rock investigating the Clinton Whitewater scandal. A fact conveniently overlooked by Democrats in Congress (Yahoo Answers)

I agree with Stewart's comment. The Venice Boardwalk is just one of several places in the West where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal has struck down limitations of First Amendment activities.

If the City Attorneys were doing their job, their research would show that the 9th Circuit and U.S. District Courts supervising them have struck down ordinances interfering with First Amendment activities on Salt Lake City's Temple Square and on Las Vegas' Fremont Street to name just two.

The taxpayers of the City of Los Angeles are paying the salaries of these "bad lawyers". The obligation of Los Angeles' elected City Attorney is to NOT waste the taxpayers money pursuing unmeritorious litigation or creating ordinances that any competent lawyer who did his research would know are unconstitutional.

Taxpayers and voters should punish the current City Attorney for wasting their money by removing him from office the next time he runs for election.

This is disappointing because my understanding is that the lottery system has been working well for the past few years. I ask the same question that Stewart asks "why did the city allow this in the first place?"

Another case where Carmen Trutanich bull-headedly wouldn't drop the case, or honor a previous ruling in plaintiffs' favor. He wouldn't drop the important suit between himself and the City Controller that Greuel inherited from the fearless Laura Chick after he promised Chick he would to get her support, the minute he didn't need the Controller anymore, and found it inconvenient that she might audit HIM not just the previous City Attorney. We the taxpayers have to eat some $half million awarded to a couple of matted-hair "city hall gadflies" because of the drawn-out lawsuits.

This is a case where both sides are right to some degree. Even though the circus IS part of what tourists expect of Venice, and it is a tourist draw and benefits the city financially in some ways, there are drawbacks too that must be mitigated.

I disagree that performers making lots of noise all day in earshot of people owning or renting homes for a lot of money, is OK - not as bad as dumping poo on the streets of Venice, but the town has too much unpleasant stuff going on already. A street performer singing or chanting without amplification is a different thing. Some of these people act like they're on a stage.

HOWEVER the business of making them get there and line up for a lottery to nab a spot every week is absurd. Why don't they just rotate the spaces, or as the judge ruled, have a plain old lottery the night before. It's like the system was designed to wear down the performers so they'd just go away.

The City of LA lives by the motto "Sue us or suffer in silence".

Thank you for reporting this to the public and, "You're Welcome, America." Free speech, once again, FREE @ Venice Beach. This ruling may now be used by people and judges across the country. (And stewart @ 3:42pm, you bring up my main point, as well. nice observation.)

Thank you L.A. Times for bringing this to public attention and, "You're Welcome, America!" Free speech, FREE, once again, at Venice Beach.

Shouldn't have to pay for a permit and show up for a lottery on Tuesday where you have to give the government your name for the chance to speak out against their permit fees and illegal rules in violation of FEDERAL LAW!

And the amplification issue isn't just about musicians. If you wanted to show up to give a speech with a mega-phone, you would have to do it in a small area next to the guy playin' Hendrix. Now you may stand at the other end of the beach with minimal amplification of your spoken word, free speech message. (So it's about THAT, too.)

Again, thanks and you're welcome! ZD


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