By Stephanie Oropeza
With the increase unemployment rate, there has been a growing lack of job opportunities in the city of Los Angeles, specifically for low-income undocumented residents. With fewer opportunities to earn a living, some low-income undocumented residents significantly depend on street vending to provide for their families.
Street vending is an integral part of the city’s culture and economy; however, government agencies continue to enforce anti-street vending laws throughout Los Angeles. Although street vendors can purchase a health and business permit, undocumented vendors still run the risk of getting cited and arrested.
A comprehensive and collaborative policy legalizing street vending would benefit the city. Vendors significantly contribute taxes to the economy and in turn benefit from being allowed to provide for their families. Thus, an implementation of a citywide comprehensive policy can serve as well as an economic development strategy.
The tax revenue being generated from street vending can help create financial security for the city and can help alleviate the unemployment rate. According to a 2015 study of sidewalk vending from the Economic Roundtable, “50,000 street vendors operate in the city annually. Additionally, street vending is a $504 million industry in Los Angeles.”
Small businesses owners argue that street vending is an unfair business since vendors are not required to pay property taxes. Through a comprehensive policy, the needs of small business owners, vendors, and the city can be met. As long as vendors respect small businesses and vise versa, both parties can highly benefit from the legalization of vending on sidewalks.
Throughout my experience in the social work field, I have learned and witnessed that children who grow up without proper nurturing from their loved ones will face future negative consequences. Government officials should allow vendors to financially provide for their families rather than separate them.
As individuals, we all search for community that helps shape who we are as human beings. Arresting street vendors will threaten the potential of that community.
Stephanie Oropeza was born and raised in Boyle Heights. She is a Los Angeles resident and a first-year student pursuing her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California.