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LA City Council Wants The State To Make Food Codes More Inclusive For Street Vendors

a man wearing a black apron and face mask stands next to a food cart where he is preparing tacos, taquitos and other items.
Jorge Martinez stands in front of his food cart in L.A.'s Piñata District, where he has been street vending for the past 18 years.
(Janette Villafana for LAist)
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The L.A. City Council has unanimously called on the state to expand the California Retail Food Code to allow street vendors to work safely under less costly requirements.

City council member Nithya Raman led the resolution asking for changes based on a report by pro bono law firm Public Counsel, UCLA and community partners.

State codes prohibit food preparation, such as reheating foods or slicing fruit, in commonly seen carts and stands. Variations of these stands that are approved by the state can cost thousands of dollars.

“Far from neutral public health standards, these restrictions are the building blocks of an exclusionary system that separates micro food businesses from economic opportunity and imposes unjust criminalization on low-income people of color,” the report states.

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To be compliant with the current codes, street vendors need to apply for the permits that started in 2019 under SB 946. Los Angeles has issued 165 of those so far, the report states, even though it estimates there are at least 10,000 vendors eligible. The application is also only in English.

“To me, that's a sign that we have a broken process in place,” Raman said. “This is a code that was not created with street vendors in mind."

Raman’s resolution asks the state to adopt the recommendations, including calling for a simplified cart approval process, standards that allow for food preparation and eased sink requirements.

Lyric Kelkar is the policy director at Inclusive Action for the City, which contributed to the report. She says the city could do more at the local level to remove barriers for street vending and this resolution makes a statement about their priorities.

"This is a really important step," Kelkar said. "It sends a strong message that L.A. is invested in these particular changes."

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