Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

With a Los Angeles City Council committee considering legalizing street vendors in the city, a San Fernando Valley area business chamber called Monday for a cap to be placed on the number of vendors that would be permitted to operate.

The push to set a limit on allowed vendors comes a day before the Economic Development Committee considers potential rules Tuesday for a vending permitting system that could allow individuals to legally sell wares and food in public areas.

“If the city of Los Angeles is going to legalize street vending, then there are several responsible measures that should be taken in order to increase accountability,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, or VICA.

One rule would be to place “a reasonable limit on the number of permits given out,” Waldman said, pointing to New York, which caps the number of vendors at 3,000.

Another potential regulation VICA backs is a requirement to have vendors obtain permission from the owners of the property or sidewalk where they plan to operate, which is similar to Portland’s street vending system, Waldman said.

The chamber’s support of these potential provisions puts the organization at odds with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, which has been pushing for fewer limits and a citywide approach to legalizing street vending.

Mike Dennis, the campaign’s spokesman, said his group opposes the idea of a cap because it could create a “black market” that would compete with the legal vendors.

Dennis said a similarly divided system was set up about 20 years ago and failed. In that earlier street vending system, different areas needed to go through a long process to “opt-in” to create a vending district.

It only resulted in one district in the MacArthur Park area, and that district now no longer exists, Dennis said.

Dennis said some groups have mischaracterized the Street Vendor Campaign as wanting “blanket legalization with no rules or regulation.”

He said the campaign supports “common-sense restrictions,” with “citywide standards” such as rules for how closely a vendor could operate near a brick-and-mortar shop, or how much space must be left open on sidewalks for foot-traffic.

“We want to pass a policy that’s workable and reasonable for all parties, but taking into account the rights and the dignity of street vendors,” as well as the needs of storefront businesses and residents, Dennis said.

— City News Service

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