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

October 26, 2010 |  2:13 pm


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