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In Wake Of Trump Victory, L.A. Finally Moves Forward On Legalizing Street Vending

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The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign advocates for L.A. to legalize sidewalk vendors (Photo via Facebook)
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Despite its omnipresence across the city, street vending has long been technically illegal in the City of Los Angeles. In fact, Los Angeles is currently the only major American city that prohibits vending of every type on its 10,750 miles of sidewalks. Community groups have been working for years to legalize food vending on the city's sidewalks, but the campaign had stalled as of late, with the issue held up for the past year in a City Council committee. As fear over the coming Donald Trump presidency reaches a fever pitch in L.A.'s immigrant communities, worry is especially steep for vendors—many of whom are undocumented, and fear that misdemeanor street vending penalties could put them at risk of deportation under a Trump administration.

On Tuesday, City Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Curren Price announced a new sidewalk vending policy aimed at protecting undocumented vendors. Under their plan, criminal penalties for vending would be removed, and a legal framework for regulating food venders would be put into place. The suggested plan would require vendors to apply for permits from the city and would allow for stationary vending in commercial and industrial areas, as long as the sidewalk remains unobstructed and no more than two vendors are operating per block. Vendors would also be restricted to operating during a set period of hours (Buscaino and Price initially recommend that those hours be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.).

"We value the notion that everyone deserves the opportunity to start a small business, on a level playing field, with failure or success determined by our own talent, hard work, and perseverance. At an early age, we teach our children concepts like overhead, profit and loss by encouraging them to sell Girl Scout Cookies, candy bars, and lemonade. Yet, if they sell any of those on a public sidewalk in Los Angeles, they are committing a crime of the same seriousness as drunk driving," Buscaino and Price wrote in a joint letter to the council.

Vending is big (small) business in L.A.—according to a 2015 Economic Roundtable report, expenditures by vendors generate an annual $517 million in economic stimulus, and many venders make or supplement their primary income through L.A.'s favorite micro-enterprise industry.

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Buscaino and Price's plan will need to be heard before the City Council's Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee and gain their approval before it can be considered before the full council. A public hearing is scheduled to be held in the committee on Monday, December 12 at 1 p.m. in council chambers.

The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, a coalition of vendors and over 65 organizations across the Los Angeles region, released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that they were encouraged by City Council's decision to schedule the hearing: "After years of discussion and multiple studies, we now have a chance to finally put an end to unjust criminalization and build opportunity in its place. We believe that the City should work expeditiously to create an inclusive sidewalk vending program that helps these entrepreneurs build their businesses, contribute to their communities, and take care of their families."