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Calexico Nearing New Rules For Swap Meets

The Calexico City Council voted unanimously Sept. 4 to preliminarily approve an updated and amended version of its 40-plus-year-old swap-meet ordinance. The controversy surrounding increased swap meet regulation had apparently withered away as there were just two comments from the public on the matter. The next step is a public hearing and a second reading that could come as soon as the council’s next meeting on Sept. 18. The council could give final approval by voting in favor of the second reading, after which the ordinance it would take effect in 30 days. Most of the outcry occurred while the ordinance was being drafted and floated among members of the community and representatives of Santo Tomas and Las Palmas swap meets. However, Las Palmas general manager Brenda Martinez sounded a conciliatory note in her statement to the council. “At this point, I like the ordinance the way it is,” she said. “Las Palmas will be doing a lot of modifications to work with the city and with the ordinance so we can all be happy campers.” The impetus for the amended ordinance had much to do with the now-closed Santo Tomas, where city fire and building inspectors identified more than 50 alleged code violations. They came in the wake of a December 2018 fire that severely damaged Santo Tomas and led to its intermittent closure until it closed for good June 30. Las Palmas wasn’t immune. A city fire inspection report from February found 18 alleged fire code violations there. Martinez, during her comments, added, “We’re here to work with you, the city of Calexico … (all we ask for) is give us time to do a good remodel for the community.” The proposed ordinance contains a lengthy and detailed list of the “minimum standards” of operating a swap meet. It addresses such issues as providing safe, sanitary and dust-free operating environments for vendors; a general statement requiring all structures and improvements be up to the most current “building regulations and uniform codes”; and an updated list about what cannot be sold at swap meets. The only other public comment came from Joong S. Kim, a businessman and former city council member. He criticized a section of the new ordinance that calls for vendors of outdoor swap meets to store their merchandise in city-approved, fire-resistant structures, or city-approved alternatives like metal buildings or trucks. Calexico City Manager David Dale, in introducing the proposed ordinance at the meeting, said it was six months in the making and developed by the city’s attorney, Carlos Campos with public input. The ordinance provided the city more clarity and detail on the steps to license, renew licenses and suspend or revoke licenses for outdoor and indoor swap meets in the city, Dale said. City Council Member Lewis Pacheco said the ordinance appears to address the issues of concern about swap meets. “I’m glad we have an ordinance now in writing with a list of do’s and don’ts,” Pacheco said.

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