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LA thinking about legalizing street vending

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It’s a misdemeanor right now

From fruit carts to flower stalls to taco stands, street vending is so ubiquitous throughout Los Angeles that many residents might be surprised to learn that selling goods on city sidewalks is technically illegal. Now, however, the City Council is considering new rules that would both legalize and regulate the many businesses operating on sidewalks across LA.

Though widespread, street vending is banned right now in nearly every form. Violations can result in a misdemeanor charges, but the law is seldom enforced. That’s one of the reasons that, by the estimation of the Bureau of Street Services, as many as 50,000 vendors can be found throughout the city.

An Economic Roundtable report estimates that those vendors do about $500 million of business each year, and that’s certainly one reason the city is likely interested in regulating the industry. A policy letter by Council members Curren Price, Joe Buscaino, and Jose Huizar outlines the plans, which would require vendors to apply for permits and pay business taxes to the city.

The regulations would also dictate where and when vendors can operate, while also allowing individual neighborhoods to establish their own rules regulating vending. The proposal also recommends establishing incentives for vendors to offer healthy food options, though it’s not clear at this point what those incentives might be.

Though the council has been discussing the legalization of street vending for several years, the matter appears to have a more urgent issue in the aftermath of the recent election. The policy letter notes that President-elect Donald Trump’s “threats to deport millions of undocumented immigrants - starting with those with criminal records” have given the City Council “a moral imperative to decriminalize vending by removing all misdemeanor penalties.”

The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, which has long pushed for the legalization of vending, praised the proposal and expressed support for a “comprehensive permitting program.” The campaign noted that “the great majority of street vendors are honest, hard-working entrepreneurs who are willing to regulate their activities so they do not have to fear for their safety.”

In the past, opponents of citywide legalization of street vending have argued that the city lacks the resources to enforce regulations and that street vendors can have a negative effect on brick-and-mortar businesses selling similar products.

A public hearing is scheduled for December 12.