They show up bright and early on Saturday mornings, parking cars and trucks along the side of Pacific Boulevard and polishing them inside and out. Once they have chalked prices onto the windshields (an old Honda Civic for $1,900) they are open for business: a pop-up used car lot on the side of the road.
But like so many other pop-up markets in Southern California, the dealerships are unlicensed, unregulated and, according to public officials, illegal.
Now, local governments are trying to curb the unlicensed dealers by making it illegal to park any car with a “For Sale” sign in the areas where these markets proliferate. TheCity of Los Angeles has already enacted a ban on two major streets, and the county is set to add Pacific Boulevard and many more roads to that list after a final vote Tuesday.
“This attempt to use the street as a place of business creates a hazard for businesses and residents who pay taxes to maintain those streets,” a Los Angeles County supervisor, Gloria Molina, said. “We are trying to correct a public nuisance.”
These used car markets have appeared all over Los Angeles County in the past 15 years, especially in the largely Latino communities southeast of Los Angeles like Walnut Park, where they conduct business entirely in Spanish.
Though it is illegal to operate a car sale business without a license in California, county officials call the law almost impossible to enforce.
The dealers hang around in a nearby park, playing cards or lying on park benches, waiting for customers to call. County officials say they bring the cars in from mechanic shops and nearby dealerships, in hopes of moving vehicles that have not sold. Many of the cars have the same phone numbers listed on them. Mr. Carvajal said sellers sometimes dropped cars off on tow trucks, two or three at a time.
When the dealers saw a photographer snapping pictures of the chalked windows, they quickly wiped the prices off all the windshields. They all denied they were selling cars — one man polishing a car ran away when a reporter approached him, and five others in the park said they were waiting around for a party that would start later. One pointed to a man sleeping on a bench and said, “It’s his birthday.”