Discussion on Street Vending Maps Road, Hurdles to Legalization

Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

Martha Garcia legs wouldn’t stop shaking when she saw the tamales and gelatins she made the night before being thrown in the trash by police officers, and her equipment being taken away by the city.

The tension stayed with her for a month, but she knew she had to recover from this setback.

“We’re always day by day. But it’s like too bad, we have to keep risking it.”

Last week’s Policy con Pan Dulce brought together city officials, activists, scholars and street vendors to discuss the hurdles that stand in front of legalizing street vending. It also gave people a chance to see the human face of those affected by the ordinance, which criminalizes street vending.

The event was organized by East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), which also hosted four street vending town halls in Boyle Heights, Westlake/MacArthur Park, South Los Angeles, and Pacoima. ELACC has been working with street vendors and various community organizations to craft a street vendor ordinance.

“We didn’t just arrive at this focus of the code overnight,” said Maria Cabildo, president of East Los Angeles Community Corporation. “It’s been a multi-year journey. But we feel like this is the solution that our community needs, and something that warrants all of us to think together and make this happen.”

Scholars estimate there are more than 10,000 street vendors in Los Angeles, many of which are undocumented. Of those, many street vendors chose to enter street vending’s informal economy because they’ve been pushed out of formal means, mostly because of their undocumented status.

Street vending also trickles down to the children of vendors. Children of street vendors help prepare the merchandise at home, babysit their siblings while their parents are away, or help sell goods with their parents or separately, said Emir Estrada, adjunct professor of sociology at University of Southern California.

Any ordinance that is considered should be able to reflect how street vending functions today, said Janet Favela, a community organizer for ELACC. During ELACC’s town halls last year, overregulation on location choice and how the activity currently is done could have negative effects on street vendors and on clientele.

While there has been growing support for a street vending ordinance, city departments need to be on board. Some of the hurdles include convincing city departments like LAPD, Bureau of Street Services, Department of Community development, and the Chief Administrative Officer, said Greg Kettles, Deputy Council to Mayor Villaraigosa.

Even current alternative options like creating a legal vending district seem a dead end, since it became to rigid and too expensive for street vendors to operate. “The laws that exist right now is not working,” Kettles said.

  • Iamyourchair

    Why do we have things so fucking backwards? We let people keep driving a killing machine without a license even if undocumented, but throw away food that they are trying to make a living off of?

  • davistrain

    I suspect that street vendors are considered “Third Worldly” by the politicians and bureaucrats in City Hall.  The objections probably include uninspected food preparation areas (e.g. somebody’s kitchen at home) and the fact that the vendors might be considered unfair competition to tax-paying licensed businesses.  However, depriving people of their stock in trade without due process or just compensation violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

    Regarding referring to motor vehicles as “killing machines”–that’s an overstatement.  Unless we want to go back to oxcarts and pack trains, any mechanised transport has the potential to cause sudden death; a hundred years ago one “scandal sheet” newspaper called the Pacific Electric Railway the “Red Reaper” because their trolley cars were involved in fatal collisions.  Even in the horse and buggy days, runaway teams caused fatal injuries, and going further back, steamboat boiler explosions took their toll.

  • melissa

    Street vending is getting out of control.  In Koreatown there are 2-3 vendors per block, cooking the exact same food.  If restaurants are forced to adhere to regulations, and go as far as have a grade in their window to alert the public that they are sanitary, then so should street vendors.

    If families can band together to purchase property then perhaps they can get together and purchase a food truck?  I don’t want to purchase food with flies, car exhaust and cigarette smoke hovering around.  Takes away from the true taste of the food.

  • Roadblock

    Street vendors are the spice of LA (or any city) life and allow people who can’t afford to eat in a restaurant to get some home cooked cheap food not made in a science lab by billion dollar junk food empires. WHY would the city of Los Angeles WASTE money regulating street vendors? This is not a job for LAPD either.

    PLEASE DO NOT WASTE RESOURCES on a  “problem” that doesn’t exist.

  • Roadblock

    Would be curious to compare the death rate for horse and carriage vs the killing machines.

  • PC

    Astoundingly, you don’t have to purchase it if you don’t want it.

  • davistrain

    I realize that to the non-automotive and anti-automotive folks, the privately owned and operated motor vehicle is often thought of as one of “History’s Worst Inventions.”  The inhabitants of the US tolerate over 30,000 motor vehicle related deaths a year, yet people still buy these machines by the millions, and many of
     us who are outside the Streetsblog mindset use them nearly every day.  I’m not trying to be a “troll”, and at various times in my life I have been transit-dependent, but calling cars “killing machines” will have little effect on those whose cars, pickup trucks or SUVs should carry stickers reading, “I will give up my car when they pry my cold, dead hands from the steering wheel” or “I’d rather die than take a bus to the hospital.”  Did America sell its soul to Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan? 

  • Anonymous

    Street vendors are like a disease that conflicts with the ideals of a clean and neat public environment. They create nuisance, they are ugly, and they don’t abide by the same rules of sanitation, health safety etc. By operating out of “nothing”, it is also very difficult to find someone to sue or prosecute criminally if something on the food was prepared out of regulations and sent you to the hospital.

    I think LA should auction off on a yearly basis a small number of vendors, and crack down on the rest. 

    As for the discussion of “but money trickle down to poor kids”, you can make that line for virtually any detrimental activity, including those that are outright criminal (many “career burglars” or car smashers also have kids, and many are poor, but that doesn’t justify their activities). 

  • “It is also very difficult to find someone to sue or prosecute criminally.” I can see why you would think this if you don’t actually know any of the data on street vending, but the truth is that hundreds of street vendors are fined or arrested every year, with an average fine being around a thousand dollars, and the maximum prison sentence being six months.

    “Street vendors are like a disease that conflicts with the ideals of a clean and neat public environment.” This is just, like, your opinion man. We can’t decide what kind of business will be legal just off of the basis of what some people think is pretty or not, Sorry, you don’t get to make this decision. Besides, if you offer street vendors the possibility of legitimacy, that incentive can encourage them to comply with certain regulations, like health, cleanliness, and distance from other businesses.