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Councilmen seek to legalize Los Angeles street vending

Two L.A. city councilmen have asked the council for a study to figure out how to legalize and regulate street vending.
November 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
If you walk along a busy street, you probably see them: people selling things like food and other items on sidewalks. That kind of street vending currently isn't allowed in Los Angeles, but two members of the L.A. City Council have a proposition to change that.

Bacon-wrapped hot dogs and fresh fruit sold on the sidewalks may be quintessentially Los Angeles, but street vendors aren't legal here.

Now L.A. city councilmen Jose Huizar and Curren Price have asked the city for a study to figure out how to legalize and regulate street vending.

Janet Favela, an organizer with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, grew up selling fruit on the streets of South L.A.

"We would go into the streets and start selling, so it was kind of like a family thing," said Favela. "I would be the one yelling 'sandia!'"

Under current law, vendors can have their equipment confiscated, face heavy fines and even be arrested.

"As it is now, we have a lose-lose situation for everybody," said Huizar. "Consumers are at risk because they can't be certain that their food is safe. Vendors are also at risk because they have to work in the shadows without protections that most of us enjoy. And city departments and our city resources are at risk because they spend a lot of time dealing with the aftermath."

Street vendors can be seen selling everything from food to clothing to electronics, and they aren't always appreciated.

"They seem to take away other people's businesses, or they're harassing customers that come out of the stores and stuff like that," said Alhambra resident Quentin Williams.

Some restaurants and other businesses may not like the idea, but proponents of legalization say that regulation would solve most of the problems for a business that will otherwise keep operating in the shadows.

"The complaints are that they don't pay taxes, that they didn't pay for their location, that they're not working in a sanitary way," said Favela. "Regulation means that those are all things that street vendors are going to have to participate in."

The proposal is now in committee, and various city agencies will report back in 90 days with their findings.

"We're trying to figure out how other cities have done it, and how we can encourage an entrepreneurial spirit, at the same time respecting the brick and mortar investment that businesses have made," said Curren Price.