Food Vendors Rally for New Law That Would Provide Path to Legal Vending

There’s always been a certain irony that Los Angeles is the only one of America’s ten largest cities to have a blanket ban on street vending. Los Angeles is famous for its street vending culture, especially for the high quality food options available on many street corners, but every time a vendor takes to the streets, he or she is breaking city law. This has led to thousands of struggling low-income entrepreneurs being penalized with hefty fines, confiscated equipment, and even incarceration.

Image: Rudy Espinoza/LURN

Yesterday, city officials took the first step to change that reality.

Flanked by dozens of supporters, members of the Los Angeles Street Vendor’s Campaign, and street vendors themselves, Council Members Curren Price and Jose Huizar rallied behind a motion that would set the city on a path to legal street vending at a rally at City Hall.

“Adopting a safe, legal and regulated street vending policy that works in concert with and compliments  established businesses can add to the economic vitality of our city,” said Council Member Huizar. “Beyond  providing much-needed regulation and a pathway for people to vend legally, this plan should also aim to increase access to good, healthy food.”

Price represents the 9th City Council District, which covers large portions of South Los Angeles. Huizar represents Downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights and other communities east of the Los Angeles River.

Public health advocates have long argued that the city’s ban on street vending is a roadblock to improved public health. Occidental College Professor Mark Vallianatos has written extensively on this subject, including many times at Streetsblog.

“Decades ago the city pushed pedestrians out of the streets to make way for cars and banned vendors as obstructions on the sidewalks. Removing commerce – and especially food – from the sidewalks made them dead places, so it ironically reduced rather than promoted walking,” Vallianatos writes, noting that banning street vending is also about mobility planning that makes walking less attractive.

“It’s also frankly embarrassing that LA, known for its street food, bans all food sales on sidewalks. We have a chance today to bring back legal sidewalk vending to help low income families earn a living, expand distribution of healthy food, and create more livable, walkable streets.”

The Los Angeles Street Vendor’s Campaign, a coalition of over 40 community and advocacy organizations, worked with lawyers and the City Council offices for over two years on the crafting of this legislation. The Campaign includes the East Los Angeles Community Corporation and Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN).

Rudy Espinoza, LURN’s Executive Director said, “Street vendors add so much value to Los Angeles and the City should create policy that preserves that value. Creating a system to permit food vending on sidewalks will not only create jobs, it will make our streets safer, and help bring healthy food options to areas of our City that needed it.”

Too often, well-intentioned advocacy campaigns are designed without the input of the people they aim to help. This campaign is different, with dozens of vendors in front of the cameras and reporters on the front lawn of City Hall. One of those vendors, known as Vasquez, has been selling quesadillas on the streets of Boyle Heights for nearly two decades.

“For over two years, I’ve been talking to neighbors, businesses and elected officials for this campaign,”  Vasquez said. “This is an exciting step and opportunity for vendors like me to invest in our business with confidence of not having everything taken from us.”

At the time of publication, no hearing has been scheduled for the legislation.


A sidewalk vendor feeds cyclists on Olympic Blvd. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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