Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 10:17 a.m.
Based on his youthful looks alone, Luis Martinez Hernandez stood out Wednesday morning among a dozen or so day laborers that stood along Taft Avenue just west of Tustin Street in Orange.
The 23-year-old Mexican shot a quick smile.
"I just looking for work," he said.
He stood next to Hernando Cortez, who said he is "40 maybe", and is looking for anything -- painting, construction work, whatever -- to earn some money.
Here's hoping they're not among those who taking tinkles on the street or else throwing their trash over the wall and into the yards of some pretty pissed off homeowners.
Orange City Attorney David DeBerry said the city has received numerous complaints from residents who say the day laborers toss trash on the street and sexually harass women walking by them.
"We're getting a lot of complaints from the neighborhood," DeBerry said.
Apparently, the day laborers have drifted from nearby Home Depot, where they said they get harassed by the police.
DeBerry said the city has a broad solicitation ordinance that applies to more than just day laborers, and "we probably have more citations for violations of that ordinance than any orther ordinance on the books."
But along Taft Avenue, the day laborers aren't breaking city laws because they are allowed to solicit work on streets with parking.
"When a vehicle can safely stop and pull up to a curb without being in a free traffic lane, then that's permitted," DeBerry said. "If a vehicle can legally park on the street, then the solicitation is permitted."
The ordinance prohibits solicitation on private property, but even then, property owners must notify the city that they don't want people asking for work on their turf.
DeBerry said some have posted signs saying they don't want solicitors on their property, and in many cases the signs have been vandalized by the day laborers.
The current ordinance has been in effect since 2007, when between 100 and 200 day laborers would congregate near Chapman Avenue and Hewes Street.
The first offense carries a fine of $250; the second is $500, with the third offense costing $1,000. DeBerry said court fees are added on top of the fines.
DeBerry said the city has a day laborer center near Chapman Avenue and McPherson Road, but it isn't used much because day laborers have to take a number, and the younger ones have an easier time finding work on the streets by being more aggressive than their older counterparts, adding that they can outrun them to potential employers.
He said the city has to be careful about violating "commercial speech" laws when it comes to day laborers, but his office is more than aware of the issues residents are raising. Again.
"Exactly how we're going to address those (issues), I'm actually looking at that right now," DeBerry said.