Stricter restriction on newspaper racks

DOWNEY - In an effort to beautify city streets, the City Council voted on Tuesday to mandate stricter standards for vendors who sell printed publications in news racks on public right-of-ways.The unanimous decision comes after Mayor Mario Guerra directed staff to find ways to make news rack locations in the city more attractive. Currently, the public works department issues yearly permits to vendors who wish to place news racks on public streets and city property. Illegally installed racks are removed. According to the city ordinance, more than 100 illegal publication machines have been removed since 2007, reducing the amount of news racks from more than 500 to nearly 250 today. The City Council approved the new standards in order to produce more uniformity among the news racks by strictly regulating the size, shape, color and location of the vending machines. Presently, 10 percent of city news racks are blue, while 40 percent are green and 50 percent are brown. Though many are made of metal, some are made of plastic. The racks also differ in type and size, and some machines are chained together. Prior to the council's vote, public works director Brian Ragland explained the proposed amendments and the changes each would bring. First, all news racks must be green and made of metal with a pedestal-style base. The city has authorized specific types made by Kaspar Sho-Rack, a Texas-based publication vending machine company. In addition, vendors cannot chain racks together and no advertisements can be displayed on the racks unless it is the publication's name or logo. The racks must be kept in good condition and no more than eight can be grouped together in one location. The city estimates that it will cost nearly $600 for vendors to install the new vending machines, but according to the ordinance, current vendors do not have to buy new machines so long as their racks meet all other standards. Current permitted publications include the Los Angeles Times, La Opinion, Press-Telegram, HOY, Recycler, Auto Trader, Whittier Daily News and others. In 2008, the city of Paramount issued a similar ordinance mandating specific standards of design, appearance and maintenance for news racks in the city. Guerra admits that the current news racks are a personal pet peeve. "We're not reinventing the wheel here - other cities have done this. Paramount passed this over a year ago and had great compliance," Guerra said. "We will be as business-friendly as possible - and it will only beautify our city."

********** Published: September 25, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 23