L.A. Street Vendors Can Now Move Forward with Suing the City

A coalition of vendors petitioned that no-vending zones are illegal due to their inconsistency with a 2018 state law that decriminalized their practice

Early Thursday morning, street vendors gathered on the steps of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse before shuffling inside for a hearing.

After hours of deliberation, a judge ruled that the coalition of Los Angeles street vendors may move forward with their lawsuit against the city regarding its no-vending zones, NBC LA reports.

This issue initially arose in December, when vendors Merlin Alvarado and Ruth Monroy as well as three groups—Community Power Collective, East L.A. Community Corporation, and Inclusive Action for the city—filed against the City.

“In the city council records there are multiple statements and comments that were made before the ordinance was enacted here in the city of L.A. that has continued afterward, attempting to find a way to bring the vendors… to work into these areas,” Matthew Heartney, an attorney for the vendors, told LAMag in December.

The no-vending zones were suspected to be in conflict with a 2018 California rule that legalized sidewalk vending across the state. This law effectively stops local officials from regulating said vendors “except in accordance with the provisions of the bill,” which makes the city legislation inconsistent with it.

As it stood, sidewalk food sales were banned within 500 feet of some of the city’s most popular locations, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The City continues to claim that sidewalk vending in said areas leads to overcrowding and dangerously pushes pedestrians into the street.

However, the judge’s ruling finds that the city has been unable to produce any statistics proving that the zones were put in place based on health and safety concerns.

“The City fails to connect its file, or any other admissible evidence, with the requirements of SB-946. That is, the City has not shown that it imposed restrictions directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare concerns,” The judge wrote.

“The ‘whereas’ clause identifies sidewalk overcrowding as the pertinent health, safety, or welfare issue, but neither it nor the November 2017 report explains why the seven no-vendor locations were chosen, what overcrowding has occurred at those locations, why the 500-foot barrier was selected, and whether sidewalk vending is directly related to the concern,” the judge added.

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