Public Spaces, Parks, Streets & Sidewalks


1. Being on the sidewalk

Can the police tell me to get off the sidewalk?

As long as you are not blocking the flow of traffic, you have the right to be on a public sidewalk or to peacefully gather with others on public sidewalks, and police may not unreasonably restrict this right.1U.S. Constitution, 1st AmendmentCox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 554 (1965); Frisby v. Schultz, 487 U.S. 474, 480 (1988)

2. Marching or assembling on the streets

Is it legal to just start marching or protesting in the street?

If you want to march, protest, or assemble on public roads, you will need to apply for a special permit with the city. For related issues within the city of Los Angeles, see the LAPD website here.

Also check out our Guide to Free Speech

3. Street vendors

Is street vending legal?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As of Feb 15, 2017, it is NOT a crime to sell food or merchandise on the sidewalk in the city of L.A., however those who do so can still be cited and fined as a civil violation or infraction. 

Keep in mind that it is still not legal to sell food or merchandise in parks (see below), or from a trailer, wagon, or pushcart.23LAMC Sec 42.00; L.A. City Council motion to study legalizing street vending Follow The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign for updates." target="_blank" rel="noopener">LAMC 80.73

But the city plans to set up a system to fully legalize street vending and to begin issuing permits.4LAMC Sec 42.00; L.A. City Council motion to study legalizing street vending Follow The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign for updates.

4. Blocking others’ path

Is it illegal to block the sidewalk?

Yes. In California, it is illegal to intentionally block the free movement of another person on a street, sidewalk or other public place.5Cal Penal Code 647c

5. Plants on city streets

Can I trim or remove a tree on a city street that is dangerous or annoying me?

In Los Angeles, you must get a permit to do ANYTHING to a tree, plant, or shrub, or to plant a tree, plant, or shrub (with exceptions below) 6LAMC Sec 62.169

Can I plant or remove stuff on the “parkway” strip of greenery in front of my house?

Yes, in Los Angeles you don’t even need a permit to plant or remove shrubs and plants, and to install fruits and vegetables there! But you can’t do trees without a permit.7LAMC Sec 62.169

6. Parks and Recreation Areas

What can or can’t I do in the park in LA?

  • Sell things? Generally you can’t sell anything in a park, except for your own “expressive” creations, including: books, audio, video or other recordings of performances, paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures or any other item that is inherently communicative.
  • Smoke? No smoking or vaping of any kind is allowed in LA parks.
  • Can I be there at any time of the day? Each park has different “open” and “closed” hours, but when it is closed you are not allowed to be at the park.

For more general rules and rules specific to certain parks, check out LA Municipal Code Sec 63.44.

7. Drinking in public

Is it illegal to drink alcohol in public?

Laws vary by city, but most cities do NOT allow you to drink alcohol in public, including the city of LA.8LAMC Ch IV Sec 41.27(c) But in most cities, including LA, if the drink has less than 0.5% alcohol (such as some kinds of Kombucha drinks), it is not legally considered alcohol and is OK to drink in public.9LAMC Ch IV §41.27(c)

Is it illegal to be drunk in public?

Yes, in California you may not be so drunk (or high on drugs) that you are unable to exercise care for your own or others’ safety. It is also illegal to be so drunk that you are blocking or preventing the use of the sidewalk or public street. This is called public intoxication10Cal Penal Code Sec 647(f)

Is it illegal to simply carry alcohol in public?

It varies by city. In the city of LA, sealed alcohol is fine to carry around. Unsealed or “open containers” are NOT OK in or near a store that sells alcohol.11LA Municipal Code Sec 41.27(d) Other than in or near an alcohol retailer, while it’s not technically illegal in LA to carry open containers of alcohol in public12LA Municipal Code 41.27(h) was declared unconstitutional and unenforceable, it’s not advisable as it may garner the attention of law enforcement.

See more at our Guide to Laws About Alcohol

8. Peeing or pooping in public or on public property

Is it illegal to pee or poop in public or on public property?

Yes. In Los Angeles it is illegal to urinate or defecate in or on any public street, sidewalk, alley, plaza, beach, park, public building or other publicly maintained facility or place, or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view, except when using a proper toilet or portapotty hidden from public view.13LAMC 41.47.2

9. Private streets

Can property owners in Los Angeles make a street private and prevent the public from entering on it?

Possibly, if they apply for it, following the procedure outlined in the LA Municipal Code Sec 18.03.




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