On Wednesday, PublicCEO ran a story regarding an eight-year-old girl having her summer lemonade stand shut down by a code enforcement officer who claimed there is no wiggle room in a Tulare city ordinance. The blog, mocked the city and code enforcement officer. The following guest commentary is written by Celeste Storrs, Neighborhood Preservation Officer for the city of Livermore, Calif.

I just read with interest your Editor’s Blog article posted on PublicCEO.com regarding the lemonade stand shut down by Tulare County code enforcement.  Though my first reaction was to fault the code enforcement officer, after reading the online newspaper articles on this matter I realize your comments could be misleading and did not do justice.

Per comments on a follow-up article in the Visalia-Times Delta, the code enforcement officer did not shut down the stand, but instead had them relocate.  It seems in addition to the need for a permit, there may have been public safety reasons for this relocation.  (See comments below)

“Uh…VTD get your facts straight. This family was not shut down, they were advised that where they set up shop was a busy intersection with a history of accidents that potentially placed the pregnant mom & child in danger, plus they were not permitted to offer the wares they were selling. They were not cited at all, code enforcement officer even helped them pack up and found them another location within the county area where selling of that nature takes place all the time (but not for long according to today’s article), so she wasn’t shut down, just relocated. Channel 30 news showed the dad saying how professional & kind the code enforcement officer was & he appreciated his efforts. So stop the hate people, this wasn’t a race thing, but it is certainly I don’t want to follow the rules thing, and if you don’t follow the rules, you may be rewarded with treasures untold by your local radio station…as John Stossel would say, “Give me a break!””

As a code enforcement officer, I certainly would not address this type of setup unless there was an imminent public safety issue and/or a complaint from the public.  For me, the word reasonable is key when working in an enforcement capacity.  Is it reasonable for a child to set up a lemonade stand on the curbside in front of her home?  Absolutely.  Is it reasonable for a child to set up a lemonade stand at a busy intersection with a history of accidents?  No.

There is also the issue of what is fair.  With the economy in shambles, cities and counties are experiencing an influx of roadside vendors selling goods such as fruits/veggies; flags; carpets; paintings and even homemade tacos/tamales. 

Is it fair to hold adults/immigrants accountable for not getting their permits and/or licenses, yet look the other way for the adorable little white girl who is setting up her stand in the same locale?  I don’t believe so. 

On a larger scale, is it reasonable for citizens to try and earn an honest living for their families?  Sure.  Is it reasonable for them to not be held to regulatory or health dept standards when selling/serving food products and/or have zero overhead costs while other similar businesses pay taxes, rent, payroll, etc. Probably not.
It is difficult enough to do a job that has practically zero public ‘feel good/fuzziness’ factors.  I’ll venture a guess that the Tulare County code enforcement officer in this particular case is a decent, upstanding public servant. 

Every story has two sides. 

Celeste Storrs
Neighborhood Preservation Officer
City of Livermore