Street vendors seek stronger protections from state, county

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Wave Staff Report

LOS ANGELES — More than 100 street vendors rallied outside of City Hall Oct. 12 during a press conference organized by the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign to voice their opposition to three proposals that could reintroduce criminal penalties for street vending or displace vendors from certain neighborhoods.

City Council members Nithya Raman, Kevin de León and Curren Price were present in support of street vendors at the rally. Raman has proposed a resolution calling on the county and state to update food vending policies in order to create a real pathway for vendors to obtain health permits.

Vendors and organizers encouraged the council to support Raman’s resolution calling on the county and state to streamline regulations on food preparation.

“L.A.’s street vendors are being unfairly shut out of our economy, unreasonably excluded from opportunity, and unjustly targeted for criminalization,” said Doug Smith, supervising senior attorney at Public Counsel. “The state food code was written at a time when sidewalk vending was still banned across California, and it hasn’t been updated since.

“We’re bringing solutions to the table again — with recommendations for common sense changes to state law that will bring entrepreneurs into a more equitable food economy while maintaining critical food safety regulation. … We need to modernize the food economy to be safe, equitable and inclusive. We need to finish the work of legalizing street vending.”

Smith worked alongside UCLA Law students and is a co-author of the unfinished business report, which details the challenges street vendors face, from inexistent carts, to a nearly impossible permit process. The report offers solutions to these barriers that can lead to the full legalization of street vending.

The two efforts before the City Council that could reintroduce criminal citations for street vending and set dangerous precedent on banning vendors from certain neighborhoods are Councilman Gil Cedillo’s motion that would enable the city to enforce county health codes, putting food vendors at higher risk of criminal citations; and Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s motion to amend a law pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), that is targeted to sidewalk vendors and would give them criminal citations for blocking the sidewalk.

“As an undocumented vendor, I am afraid that these proposals are going to result in criminal tickets which puts me in danger of getting deported,” said Merlin Alvarado, a hot dog vendor from Hollywood. “The City Council should work with us to help assess how to improve the city’s programs and how to do more outreach and education.

They should also work with us to support county and state changes which don’t allow us food vendors to get our health permits.”

Outdated health regulations are the biggest barrier to becoming fully permitted as a food street vendor in Los Angeles. If passed, Raman’s resolution sends a strong message to the county and state that the city of Los Angeles is a strong advocate for policies that will give food street vendors more opportunities.

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