Young girls fight produce stand closure

August 20, 2008 8:22:49 AM PDT
Two young East Bay girls are trying to find out if you really can fight city hall. The youngsters are battling to get their produce stand back after the city of Clayton shut them down.

The mayor himself is getting involved in this issue; he says the produce stand, operated by two young sisters, had to be shut down because of public safety and a zoning ordinance. But members of the Lewis family say - we have just begun to fight.

On a Clayton street corner is where 11-year-old Katie and 3-year- old Sabrina Lewis had been selling their families surplus fruits and veggies - stuff like:

"Zucchini, melons, tomatoes, radishes," said Sabrina Lewis.

They did it for maybe four hours on Saturday mornings to make a little money. They haven't sold a thing since the police showed up recently in response to one complaint to the mayor's office.

"They said traffic was being stopped and then they came up with we can't have a roadside stand and then they said it was a commercial enterprise," said Katie Lewis, former produce seller.

As for the traffic issue, neighbor Terri Highsmith says there isn't one.

"On the weekends is when I mostly notice them selling. I come and go a lot and I've never seen any traffic problems," said Highsmith.

Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning disagrees. And wonders what Katie and Sabrina might do with that produce stand if the zoning laws weren't enforced.

"They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they make it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next," said Manning.

Lucky for Katie and Sabrina their folks don't have lemon trees.

"Lemonade stands are technically illegal, but they don't last long enough to do anything about," said Manning.

"I was extremely shocked," said Mike Lewis, father of Katie and Sabrina.

The girls' father is speaking about the city's decision to enforce the letter of the law, and run his girls out of business.

"There is always exceptions and compromises and ways to go around it. To this day, I haven't seen anything except 'no, you can't do it,'" said Mike Lewis.

"I wish everyone would follow the rules and not be just self-centered," said Manning.

"I've called the mayor a couple of times and he won't talk to me at all," said Mike Lewis.

"He knows the rules and chose to ignore them," said Manning.

"Why is this a problem?"

That last comment from one of the people who has signed a petition to bring the produce stand back. The petition circulated by its author 11-year old Katie, suddenly the voice of reason in the middle of a controversy that's growing faster than:

"That big pumpkin over there," said Katie Lewis.

And that's getting bigger by the day.

Mr. Lewis says he has approached the city planning commission - hoping to find a compromise making one last stand for his girls' produce stand. City planners meet next week - we will keep you posted.


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