The Los Angeles City Council is expected to develop regulations to legalize street vendors, as most major cities in the country have already done. After decades of doing nothing to create a permit system for the city’s estimated 50,000 street vendors, all thus operating illegally, political observers have suggested that the election of Donald J. Trump has motivated City officials to move forward at long last. (Trump has promised to deport immigrants in the country illegally, especially those who have records of criminal activity. And most of the city’s street vendors are immigrants, many of them undocumented, so decriminalizing street vending to keep street-vending offenses off their criminal records has become more urgent.)
Larchmont Blvd. has only ever had a handful of vendors on the street, so it’s unclear if the new rules will have much of an impact locally, especially since the new rules would set a limit of two vendors per block. A framework for developing new regulations was presented by Councilmembers Curren Price (CD 9) and Joe Buscaino (CD 15) at a meeting of the Public Works Committee on December 12, 2016. In their letter presenting a framework to develop new rules, Price and Buscaino said:
“The City of Los Angeles has a broken and dysfunctional policy as it relates to the vending of food and merchandise on public sidewalks. 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. 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.”
Here are key elements of the Councilmembers’ proposed street vending framework.
- Street vending will be allowed citywide from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Two vendors per block will be allowed in commercial areas with the consent of the adjacent business or property owner and other protections. Vending in residential areas would be prohibited, with a narrow exception for small, push cart vendors, provided they stop no more than 5 minutes, and do not deviate from a pre-approved route or zone. The City should develop limits on the number of vendors allowed in residential areas to prevent an over-concentration in any single neighborhood. Vending within 500 feet of a school should be prohibited, unless the vendor is soiling exclusively healthy food.
- Vendors must have permits and liability insurance.
- There will be two penalty tiers that impose greater penalties for vending without a permit, and less severe penalties for vendors who have a permit, but are in violation of rules governing placement, hours of operation and other conditions the City imposes. The Bureau of Street Services, Investigation & Enforcement Division will assigned to enforce the new rules.
- The frame work allows for the creation of a process for creating special vending zones that could allow or prohibit vending with signatures from 20% of property owners or businesses in the proposed district. But these no vending, more restrictive or more permissive vending districts can only be based on public health, safety and welfare concerns.
- Vendors who benefit from those services provided by BIDs should be required to contribute to the cost of BID operations through an additional fee to be included as part of the annual vending permit fee.
- Incentives for Healthy Food – Many Angelenos live in “food deserts” with little to no access to healthy food. Special incentives should be provided to vendors selling exclusively healthy foods, such as a discounted annual permit fee, and special authorization to vend near schools.
- An education and outreach program to help vendors understand the rules and navigate the permit process.
- Comprehensive review of the vending policy after one year.
“We aim to foster community empowerment, allowing each neighborhood and commercial district the ability to tailor more or less sidewalk vending, if any at all. A one size fits all approach will not work. We further urge effective and fully funded enforcement of those regulations,” said Heather Boylston, spokesperson for the Larchmont Business Improvement District, which has joined with other BIDs in the city to support the effort to legalize street vendors with enforcement and property owner consent provisions.