Photo: Jacqueline Garcia/La Opinion/Impremedia
A group of ice cream, taco and fruit vendors facing eviction from their carts and trucks by their landlord in Los Angeles met Thursday with new Area Councilwoman Eunices Hernandez to ask for her support.
Hernández will be sworn in in December to be the new District 1 councilwoman, but she assured the vendors that from now on she is already listening to their concerns to find a solution.
The problem of the approximately 100 vendors of the La Palma Ice Cream Inc. police station began in May when they received a notice that they had until June 14 to vacate the parking lots of the establishment located at 3232 N. Figueroa Street.
The vendors obtained legal counsel and remained at the scene. However, this week they received a “third and final notice” from the company stating that it no longer has a valid license from the Los Angeles County health department to operate the station.
“Due to the loss of the health license of La Palma Ice Cream Inc., the trucks and fruit carts that park in this place could lose their permit from the health department to operate,” indicates an announcement posted by different areas of the Police station.
The ad goes on to say that the company is permanently closing its doors. Those who have not evicted by July 1 would face electricity and water services disconnected and their trucks and carts will be towed with a crane at the expense of each owner.
The vendors said that they do not believe the owner’s excuses to immediately close the company since in the same establishment there is a warehouse of a restaurant whose operators are American and they have until the end of the year to evict.
Vendors said they have tried to speak with local representatives including current Area Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Supervisor Hilda Solis, but have received no adequate response.
One after another the vendors gave their complaints to the new councilwoman Hernandez.
“Gil Cedillo’s office told us to go take workshops. We don’t need that, we need a place for our cars,” said one vendor.
“The stores are very expensive, we don’t have enough and then they want to give us some that are very far away,” said another vendor at the meeting.
“Last time Gil Cedillo was going to be knocking on the doors of businesses asking for support for his campaign, but when he won he changed his opinion of help,” added one more.
“[La Palma] He offered 10 or 12 truck owners the opportunity to go to another station, but it’s in Downey,” added another vendor. “Besides, we don’t know if it’s just a hook to get us out of here only.”
In protest 24 hours a day
Juan Rodríguez, a community organizer, said that the first notification in May was legal but when the tenant sellers responded with a letter from their lawyers, the company did not respond through the court. They only put ads made by themselves.
“Obviously it is an illegal process because the only one that can order that is the court and they [La Palma Inc.] they have nothing in court,” Rodríguez said.
From June 15, which was the date when they had to leave, under the first order, the workers decided to stand guard at the police station 24 hours a day to prevent them from being evicted. During the day the women care and at night the men.
However, there are vendors like José Ayala who hasn’t been out selling tacos for two weeks because he fears his car will be impounded by the company.
Where are our carts? [adentro de la bodega] it opens with a password, but they can change it and “what do we do?” the seller questioned. “I am afraid that it will come and my cart will no longer be there. We ask the owners to give us one or two months to fix the situation and that’s it, but they don’t want to listen to us.”
Rodríguez said that even though the property owner did not take this month’s rent, all tenants have their money order in case the owner asks for payment.
“If they come to sue us legally, all this they have done is not valid because it is not a legal procedure and they have to repeat the eviction again, regularly it is 60 days, and then we can respond,” Rodríguez explained.
Hernández said that it makes him angry that the importance that the low-income community needs, mainly immigrants, is not given, such as in areas where the vendors of La Palma Ice Cream Inc.
“With what is happening here, we see that not all communities are treated the same,” Hernández said. “Vendors are part of the heart of Los Angeles and we are not investing in their quality of life.”
She told the vendors that while she still can’t do anything as a councilwoman, she can call Supervisor Hilda Solis and other contacts directly for support. Additionally, she in partnership with vendors will begin searching for available city or county locations for vendors to move into.
At the end of the meeting, all vendors applauded Hernandez’s efforts.
“She is the only one who has listened to us, nobody listens to us,” assured several vendors.