Street vendors are a staple in cities including Los Angeles and yet they are rarely protected. Not only are they supporting themselves and their families but they’re also representing us on the streets and offering us little pieces of our cultures and homes. The job comes with risks as they’re often vulnerable to attacks or damage to their carts like what happened when six vendors lost their carts in the I-10 freeway fire, or two years ago when public health officials threw out a vendor’s food. An estimated 12,500 street food vendors generate millions of dollars annually and of the 50,000 street vendors throughout LA County, roughly 80 percent are women, and the majority are people of color, immigrants, seniors or come from a low-income household. They’ve united in their efforts to fight for the ability to sell in places they’ve been barred from and now progress has been made.
Last week, L.A. city council members passed a unanimous 15-0 vote to lift the no-vending zones and allow vendors to sell their food and wares at seven of the city’s most popular tourist spots including the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium. Existing health and safety regulations will still be enforced but it’s a huge win for street vendors and their families in L.A. county, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“As the son of street vendors, I’ve seen how hard these folks work, and how harassment and ticketing can threaten their ability to provide for their families,” L.A. councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez, who co-introduced the motion with council President Paul Krekorian, wrote in an Instagram post. “What we’re saying with this law is that we see you, we value your hard work, and we want to collaborate with you on rules for vending that can work for everyone.”
This new law has been many years in the making after decades of no-vending zones policed by city officials, which made street vending illegal within 500 feet of popular tourist spots. When a 2018 law in California decriminalized street vending, it motivated two street vendors and several community organizations, including Community Power Collective, East Los Angeles Community Corp., and Inclusive Action for the City, to sue L.A. over the creation and enforcement of no-vending zones, arguing that they violated state law. At that time, officials stated that street vendors posed a safety threat to crowded areas, claiming that they made the congestion worse, but had no evidence to support this. Now, street vendors will be allowed to sell their wares at seven major tourist spots in the city including the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, L.A. LIVE/Crypto.com Arena, Universal Studios/CityWalk, Exposition Park, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. There will still be other regulations in effect prohibiting street vendors within five feet of fire hydrants and three feet of street lights and parking meters.
However, the vendors and organizations involved in the lawsuit have made it clear that the trial will proceed as planned beginning on February 15. Their primary focus is to have the city repeal the hundreds of citations that officials have enforced against street vendors in no-vending zones over the past five years, which have amounted to thousands of dollars worth of fines and fees who simply cannot afford to pay them. They are also demanding that any citations that have already been paid will be refunded and for all vending regulations to be lifted.
“We have no assurances, and based on recent history, we have no trust,” Sergio Jimenez of Community Power Collective told CBS. “We are also dismayed that the city has offered nothing to repair the deep harms caused by the hundreds of citations, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines imposed on low-income immigrant families due to the unlawful no vending zones. … We’re here to tell you that this ordinance is important and necessary, but also to remind you that the job is not done.”
The new law lifting the vending ban will take effect in March, according to L.A. city officials.