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‘Little Tijuana:’ Drama Erupts at Neighborhood Council Meeting over Backlash to Street Vendors in NELA

4:30 PM PDT on September 18, 2019

[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] banner with the spray-painted words “Little Tijuana” was unveiled by two masked protestors at approximately 8:57 PM in Glassell Park’s monthly neighborhood council meeting last night. They were just two of the nearly 50 attendees who showed up to voice their concern against a member of their council who allegedly made the following controversial statement about Glassell Park’s recent boom of street vendors: “We do not want a little TJ here.”  There were also two police officers present throughout the meeting which took place inside the Glassell Park Senior Center. 

This happened after a letter against “sidewalk pop-up vendors” in Glassell Park was written to the Neighborhood Council last month by a community member who identified himself to L.A. Taco as “Bradley” was made public. In that letter, Bradley asked the neighborhood council to “please help” with the “growing problem” of “unlawful, unlicensed, and unpermitted street vendors in the community of Glassell Park.” The letter goes on to say, “We do not want a proliferation of MacArthur Park-type pop-up vending and illegal vendors that define our neighborhood.”

The neighborhood council member whom the protestors and attendees were referring to is Marcie Rose, who denied she ever said that statement relating Glassell Park to “Little TJ” during the meeting. Meanwhile, about a mile away on Eagle Rock Boulevard and Ave 42, the popular street vendor Angel’s Tijuana-style Tacos had a line of over 30 people eagerly waiting to support and take a bite of their sizzling, smokey plate of street tacos.

Community members who were present in last month’s meeting say otherwise. “All of us couldn’t believe what [Marcie Rose] had just said,” Yaya Castillo, confirmed to L.A. Taco after the meeting. “There was someone else here who got up and slammed the door because he was so upset.” She was present at last month’s meeting and was the community member who shared the letter with the L.A. Tenants Union and a few other community advocate Instagram accounts like @iceoutofnela and @inform.the.people, who posted their solidarity with street vendors and requested community members in support of street vendors to show up.

Bradley has been called the 'Madonna and the Cher of L.A. neighborhood politics' and 'Crazy Bradley' in the past by Curbed, namely for his intimidating actions caught on video like having to be physically escorted away after placing his crotch uncomfortably close to the back of another female community member at a meeting in 2007 who disagreed with him. 

Among the other attendees was a street vendor himself, who came with his wife and two children to give comment as well. However, due to the agenda item—which was billed as item number 4—not being discussed until 8:30 PM and no Spanish translation services available, they left.   

Police present at the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council meeting.

During Bradley’s commentary, he noted the exact location of eight street vendors who have started selling street food in the last six months, including fruit vendors and taco stands. In his speech, he said that he wants “the board to initiate a dialogue on how Glassell Park can address vendors and work with them to operate with the full requirements of LA Bureau of Street Services to avoid any non-compliance issues in the future.”

During Bradley’s sole comment of the night against unlawful street vendors, there were audible boos from the crowd as well as someone shouting, “Brandon, why do you hate working-class people?” Community members noted the change in tone and approach in Bradley’s comment compared to the letter he wrote last month. Bradley has been called the “Madonna and the Cher of L.A. neighborhood politics” and “Crazy Bradley” in the past by Curbed, namely for his intimidating actions caught on video like having to be physically escorted away after placing his crotch uncomfortably close to the back of another female community member at a meeting in 2007 who disagreed with him. 

“My concern is that with enforcement, there will be deportations or ICE involved. I grew up selling tamales to my neighbors with my grandmother and that’s how I got my training as a chef before I went to culinary school.”

Castillo accused Bradley of only targeting the pop-up vendors around the place of his “Professional Architecture Services” business, E.B.E. Associates, Inc. She went as far as disclosing his business address. The crowd clapped after her comment pressing the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council on why they waited so long to disclose the vendors that Bradley mentioned to them via his letter, which goes against the Ralph M. Brown Act that allows the public access to information in local legislative meetings. Another man called Bradley’s targeting a form of “hunting” against poor people.

The Glassell Park Neighborhood Council and community members.

Glassell Park Neighborhood Council President, Karin Davalos, kept as much order as she could and threatened to cancel the meeting after an attendee used his comment time to call Bradley an obscenity. Conversely, there were many heartfelt comments. Like Alex Ramirez, a chef who nearly broke down into tears while she revealed that she comes from a long lineage of matriarchs who sold street food. “My concern is that with enforcement, there will be deportations or ICE involved. I grew up selling tamales to my neighbors with my grandmother and that’s how I got my training as a chef before I went to culinary school. I’m extremely upset at the board for saying that TJ comment. That is hurtful to me as a woman of color.” 

This hyper-local issue may offer a peek into the future of legalized street vending and the issues that may arise for vendors, residents, and businesses. Proponents of street vendors argue that legalization is not decriminalization and that a lot of street vendors who are undocumented will not have a pathway to obtain permits.

A representative of Mayor Garcetti’s office, Edna Degollado, was present to hear the concerns about deportations and provided public comment and voiced “that the city of L.A. is not participating in any type of immigration raids,” and stating that “we are a city of sanctuary.”

“I think the best course of action for folks who want to get the proper permitting would be to connect them with an organization that is helping folks get support.” She named the East Los Angeles Community Corporation as one of those organizations. When pressed for follow up questions by L.A. Taco about Bradley’s claim of a street vendor task force being active in 2020 after the meeting, Degollado declined to comment. She will be present in next month’s meeting.

Yaya Castillo gives commentary at the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council meeting.

After more than an hour of heated dialogue, President Davalos moved on from the agenda item but not before committing to revisit it next month with more city officials present to provide their comments. 

This hyper-local issue may offer a peek into the future of legalized street vending and the issues that may arise for vendors, residents, and businesses. Proponents of street vendors argue that legalization is not decriminalization and that a lot of street vendors who are undocumented will not have a pathway to obtain permits. Street vendors were legalized in Los Angeles last year, but the details relating to the official permit system and locations where vendors will be allowed to vend are still being worked out. The details are expected to be finalized next year. 

Ramirez, the chef, summed up the neighborhood’s concern best: “There are restaurateurs who are already looking into receiving street vending business permits and these people have money backing them. I know some of them. I fear they will push out all the street vendors who have been doing it because they have no other choice.”

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