Los Angeles is the only major American city where street vending is still illegal, which might comes as a surprise if you’ve ever gobbled up a bacon-wrapped hot dog after stumbling out of a bar. Or salivated as you watched a cob of corn being slathered in butter and chili powder. Or woken to high-pitched cries of “Tamales! Champurrado!” But it is prohibido and the griddle-pushing, cooler-toting entrepreneurs who do it are often rousted and fined by police.
Today the City Council met to consider a proposal that would set the stage for legalizing some of the approximately 50,000 sidewalk vendors in Los Angeles. (It’s estimated that about 10,000 of them sell food; the other 40,000 of them sell everything from clothes to turtles.)
Introduced by councilmembers Jose Huizar and Curren Price, who between them represent most of downtown, the proposed “framework” recommends that street vendors be required to take a course in health and safety, apply for a permit (which comes with a fee, naturally), and, if they sell food, obtain county approvals for food handling. The proposal also suggests that the city be allowed to set boundaries for where street vendors can operate.
Before these guidelines can become law, they will face stiff opposition. Some community groups and councilmembers, including Paul Krikorian, cite the concerns of brick-and-mortar businesses who consider mobile vendors to be unfair competition.
Today’s meeting featured people speaking on both sides of the issue. Speaking in favor of the proposal, vendor Jerri Wingo of Leimert Park reportedly said, “We were taught to create our own jobs and that’s what we’re doing. This motion will create opportunity for people who want to do their part.” (The quote comes from the LA Food Policy Council, a strong supporter of the guidelines.)
Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who also supports the guidelines, said, “At the end of the day these are small businesses… the micro-businesses of our city. We will not be successful in this city unless we collaborate together.”
What was the upshot of all this? More waiting. The proposal was sent back to the chief legislative analyst’s office for clarification, reports KPCC. The Los Angeles City Economic Development Committee will review it at a later (yet-to-be determined) date.
It’s not the major change that street vendors and their advocates had hoped for but it’s an important step.