Photo by Jonathan Olivares

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday that decriminalizes sidewalk vending in California and encourages cities to regulate the mostly women-run industry by creating local permiting processes.

Senate Bill 946 prohibits criminal penalties for sidewalk vending and allows street vendors to clear pending citations and be retroactively relieved of previous convictions.

The so-called Safe Sidewalk Vending Act was authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who said he wanted to protect vendors who are undocumented immigrants and could be deported because of a criminal violation.

With @JerryBrownGov signing of #SB946 we can start seeing vendors for who they are — women, seniors, parents & micro-business owners. Ending criminal penalties & letting people contribute to the local economy! ???

— Ricardo Lara (@senricardolara) September 17, 2018

The law, which goes into effect in January, still allows local authorities to regulate the sale of food and other goods on sidewalks, as long as permit processes address health, safety and welfare concerns.

As reported by Streetsblog LA last month, Lara’s bill allows residential areas to restrict vendors and won’t prohibit cities like Los Angeles from restricting access to large venues hosting award shows or sports events. But SB 946 stops communities from exerting excessive local control, and prohibits some restrictive measures, such as requiring vendors from obtaining permission from brick and mortar businesses before setting shop on a nearby sidewalk.

“I feel excited with the news of Governor Brown signing SB946,” said Caridad Vásquez, a leader of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign (LASVC), in a release. “Before we were working in the shadows, now we will be seen by everyone and can contribute to our economy openly.”

We are not waiting for Taco Tuesday to celebrate @JerryBrownGov signing #SB946. We are celebrating today that #CASidewalkVendors are recognized as entrepreneurs. #LegalizeStreetVending

— elaccOrg (@elaccOrg) September 18, 2018

The LASVC was formed in 2012 by several individuals and organizations, to find solutions in support of local vendors. In 2017 the Los Angeles City Council voted to stop making street vending a misdemeanor. In April, the city approved a plan to overturn the city’s ban on sidewalk sales. The Council directed the city’s attorneys to draft an ordinance that would limit the number of vendors in certain blocks but would allow the creation of special vending zones where more would be allowed.

A final draft ordinance has not come back to the City Council for a vote.

While campaigning for passage of SB 946, Lara stressed how the overwhelming majority of street vendors are women. Activists estimate that as many as 80% of Los Angeles 50,000 street vendors are women.

“With the Governor’s signature now thousands of sidewalk vendors across the state will be able to provide for their families without fear, especially our women vendor leaders that are at the forefront of this movement,” said Isela Gracian, President of East LA Community Corporation, which is part of the LASVC.  

While vendors within the City of Los Angeles are expected to be regulated by the new ordinance, Lara’s bill will have a direct effect on vendors working in nearby cities and unincorporated county areas without regulation, such as East Los Angeles and City Terrace.

SB 946 was one of dozens of bills Brown announced signing Monday, including bills related to mail ballots and balcony inspections

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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