Photo by John Schreiber
Photo by John Schreiber

A street vending policy that criminalizes the activity on the same level as drunk driving is broken and dysfunctional, two Los Angeles City Council members say, and a public hearing will be held Monday on their proposal to revamp it.

“We are the only major city in the United States that prohibits vending of every type, at all hours, on all of the 10,750 miles of sidewalks throughout Los Angeles,” the proposal says. “While vendors are being charged with misdemeanors for violating this ban, there are no penalties imposed on those that purchase from vendors, nor any regulations or ban on food trucks, even though they are utilizing the same sidewalks to sell their products, only from the other side of the curb.”

The council’s Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee Monday will examine a plan drawn up by council members Joe Buscaino and Curren Price that would permit street vending in Los Angeles and remove criminal penalties as an enforcement tool. In their place would be a permit system enforced through fines and property confiscation.

The plan has received split support from the city’s neighborhood councils, with eight offering community impact statements of support and eight submitting statements opposed to the plan as it currently stands.

The Northridge East Neighborhood Council wrote that it “is concerned about the inadequate enforcement of the current law and about the negative impact on existing `brick and mortar’ businesses, as well as on residential neighborhoods, that legalization would bring.”

The plan notes President-elect Donald Trump’s stated goal of deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records, and says, “Continuing to impose criminal misdemeanor penalties for vending disproportionately affects, and unfairly punishes, undocumented immigrants, and could potentially put them at risk for deportation.”

Members of the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign, a coalition of  65 organizations and 400 local businesses, plan to hold a news conference outside City Hall before the meeting and call on the City Council to legalize street vending.

“The simple act of selling a hotdog on a city street could cause one to wind up with a misdemeanor. Now with a Trump Administration promising to enact unprecedented mass deportations for `criminals,’ this type of legal record for an undocumented immigrant could have drastic consequences for them and their family,” the group said in a statement.

The plan calls for permitting stationary vending, such as taco stands, in commercial and industrial areas around the city, as long as the walkway is not obstructed, and only two vendors per block would be allowed. Vending in most residential areas would be prohibited, though an exception could be made for smaller, mobile push-cart vendors.

Vendors would be limited to operating from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. except for special cases like sporting and entertainment events. The plan would also allow for the creation of special districts where more permissive or restrictive rules could be allowed.

The Coalition to Save Small Business, which is made up of more than 1,300 small businesses, said in a statement the plan “is an improvement over earlier efforts to allow unregulated, citywide street vending and we support many of its provisions.”

—City News Service

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