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Bill To Make It Easier For Street Vendors To Get Permits Heads To Governor’s Desk

A Latino man leans in to use tongs to pick up chicharrones on the top of his cart. People stand nearby and watch him outside.
Rigoberto Morales sells chicharrones (fried pork cracklings) in the Piñata District in downtown L.A. in March 2019.
(Agustin Paullier
AFP via Getty Images)
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A state bill that could make it easier for Los Angeles street food vendors to obtain necessary health permits is on its way to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

SB 972, introduced by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), seeks to make the California Retail Food Code friendlier to small pushcart vendors by updating state rules that now apply chiefly to larger mobile food operations, like food trucks.

The bill passed the state Assembly last week and cleared the Senate Tuesday.

Street vending was made legal in Los Angeles and statewide in 2018. L.A. began providing sidewalk vending permits starting in early 2020, but so far, few street food vendors have obtained them. According to city public works officials, as of last week, only 233 street food vendors had obtained a city permit since they became available.

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Street vendor advocates say that while the permitting process is easier for non-food street vendors — like those selling jewelry or clothing — it's more difficult for those who sell food, particularly hot food like tacos or hot dogs. That's because they must obtain county health permits, and in order to do that, they must have equipment that passes muster with state rules.

Those rules aren't set up for small pushcart vendors, said Lyric Kelkar, policy director for Inclusive Action for the City, a local nonprofit that advocates for street vendors.

"They're required to comply with the regulations of something closer to a food truck, when we know that street vendors operate at a totally different level," Kelkar said.

SB 972 would update the state retail food code to make it more compatible with street food vendors, creating a new category for them and allowing them to meet health requirements with smaller, cheaper carts than what are now permitted. It would also limit penalties and make it easier for food vendors to access space in approved commissaries, commercial kitchens where they can prepare their food.

Opponents say the bill would diminish local governments’ power to regulate street vendors.

Governor Newsom has until the end of September to sign or veto the bill.

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