LA City Council to consider legalizing street vendors on sidewalks and public parks

November 28, 2014
(Korea Times file)

There are an estimated 10,000 food vendors and 40,000 non-food vendors informally doing business in Los Angeles on sidewalks and parks, according to city officials. (Korea Times file)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A City Council panel was scheduled next week to consider a proposed street vendor permitting program legalizing the selling of food and wares on Los Angeles’ sidewalks and public parks.

There are an estimated 10,000 food vendors and 40,000 non-food vendors informally doing business in Los Angeles on sidewalks and parks, according to city officials. A proposed “framework” for regulating such vendors will be taken up Tuesday by the Economic Development Committee.

The panel is also expected over the next few months to consider details such as permit fee amounts, possible caps on the number of permits issued and locations to allow vending.

City officials are recommending that the Economic and Workforce Development Department, Recreation and Parks Department and the Bureau of Street Services handle the permitting process.

Food vendors also would need to obtain permits from the Department of Public Health and the Los Angeles Police Department will play an enforcement role, under the concept laid out by city officials.

Supporters of legalizing street vending say it would give entrepreneurial opportunities to low-income people and legitimize an already thriving street food culture in Los Angeles, while some critics of the business model worry it would create a public nuisance and could be unsanitary.

A coalition of about 55 groups calling themselves the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign is planning a Tuesday morning rally to support the permitting program, followed by a news conference and testimony at the committee hearing.

The proposal to legalize street vending has drawn mixed reaction from neighborhood groups. The Studio City Neighborhood Council officially opposes the idea, while the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council have come out in support of legalized, regulated street vending.

The Mar Vista Community Council expressed “deep concerns” about the proposed permitting system and asked that before street vending is legalized, issues such as liability, sanitation, noise, odors and trash be addressed.

The Central City East Association asked that street vending not be allowed in the Skid Row area in downtown Los Angeles. The group’s executive director, Raquel Beard, wrote in a letter to the City Council that “this area is already plagued with a mixed bag of public safety issues, the last thing it needs to add to the equation is street vending.”

Some concerns were raised that street vendors would be more prone to extortion by gang members, but police department officials said the problem also affects brick-and-mortar shops and the best way to combat this type of crime is to report it to authorities.