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Vermont Avenue Street Cleanup Prompts Worries From Street Vendors

A chain link fence running along a city sidewalk with traffic in the distance.
Fencing on the sidewalk along Vermont Avenue in the cleanup area.
(Courtesy of Community Power Collective)
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A street cleanup along Vermont Avenue in Pico-Union is causing confusion and anxiety for street vendors who work there, according to vendor advocates.

The cleanup, in the area of 11th and 12th Streets, was announced Monday by City Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s office. In a statement, it said the area had become “unsanitary and unsafe” and that the plan calls for sewer and storm drain cleaning, along with power cleaning of the sidewalks.

This particular stretch of Vermont, which sits along the El Salvador Community Corridor, is also a popular location for street vendors. Advocates say that as vendors have been arriving this week to find the sidewalks blocked with fencing, they’ve worried about when and if they can return.

Street vendor advocate Sergio Jimenez with the Community Power Collective said some vendors in the area were warned of the cleanup via flyers by a local community group, but that they received no details about a timeline for the project or whether they’ll be able to return to the area.

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Jimenez said the city should provide the vendors with more information.

“That would help a lot, right?” he said. “When can they come back, how can they come back, some form of support from the City Council — and just clarity.”

Jimenez says many vendors so far have moved on to attempt to sell in other locations, which is difficult, especially if other vendors are already established in those places. Others have been paying to set up in a nearby private parking lot.

He said worries about being pushed out are stoked by memories of how that happened last year to vendors in a popular Lincoln Heights location known as the Avenue 26 Night Market.

According to the city Department of Public Works, the cleanup project is temporary.

Cedillo’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Its Monday statement read:

“The quality of life of Pico Union residents, businesses, and vendors will be revitalized through this comprehensive effort. Deferred maintenance will be performed, ADA compliance will be met, public safety will be restored, and street vendors will be given an opportunity to vend safely.”

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