Food vendor Caridad Vázquez sells food on Breed Street in Boyle Heights. Photo by Noemí Pedraza

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Wednesday to create a permit system for street vendors. Beginning next year, street vendors on the streets of Los Angeles and throughout the state will be able to earn a living selling goods on the street, without the worry of being penalized.

In neighborhoods such as Boyle Heights, where a large portion of residents work in the informal economy, the new law will make it easier for many to earn a living.

Councilman Curren Price, who along with Councilman José Huízar first introduced a motion to create a sidewalk vending policy in 2013, said before Wednesday’s vote that it was an important day in Los Angeles.

“Thousands of micro-entrepreneurs want to come of the shadows and enjoy the formal LA economy,” he said.

In Los Angeles, there are an estimated 50,000 street vendors. The city decriminalized street vending earlier this year, but after the Governor made vending legal statewide beginning next year, the City was forced to create a system which conforms with the state legislation.

Fifty-nine-year-old street food vendor Caridad Vázquez, who sells a variety of items including tacos and pozole on the corner of 4th and Breed Street, said she’s happy she will no longer have to worry about issues with police.  In the past, she has had her cart confiscated multiple times.

“We are thankful that legalization is forthcoming,” said Vázquez. “We will be able to work legally and people will see that we, too, contribute money to the city.”

Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB946, which legalizes street vending throughout California starting January 1st. The state law says vendors can not be prevented from selling in areas unless it creates a safety issue.  Cities are given the right to create their own regulations, as long as they adhere to the state requirements.

In Los Angeles, vendors will be limited on where they can operate, although the state law only allows the city to regulate based on health, welfare, or safety concerns. The Los Angeles ordinance restricts vending near tourist areas such as Staples Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, the Banc of California Stadium, and Hollywood Boulevard.

Los Angeles is the last major city in the country to make street vending legal. The East Los Angeles Community Corporation has been advocating for the rights of street vendors for nearly ten years.   ELACC president Isela Gracián said the vendors are very excited and the new policy will benefit the entire city.

“This street vending bill supports protecting undocumented people that are vending,” said Gracián. “It supports strengthening our local economy, by giving the process to street vendors to get permits and it allows for cities and counties to create a process that is clear and very unique flavor of each of their areas.”

Photo above: Food vendor Caridad Vázquez sells food on Breed Street in Boyle Heights. Photo by Noemí Pedraza

Noemí Pedraza is a 2020 graduate of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. She enjoys playing the saxophone and volunteering. She hopes to double major in Biology and Journalism in college.

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