Lawmaker’s Bill Would Legalize Street Vending Statewide

A bill introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) last week would eliminate much of the power cities currently have to regulate local street vending, essentially legalizing the practice statewide. Under Senate Bill 946, cities must have a licensing system in place for food vendors. If not, they would have virtually no say in where they can and can’t operate, nor any power to penalize or confiscate their goods.

“Sidewalk vendors are a fixture in California’s communities and a part of vibrant food cultures. But outdated laws expose these entrepreneurs to harassment, criminal prosecution, and even deportation,” according to a statement from Lara’s office. “The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act not only protects vendors, it also allows cities to permit vending and collect reasonable fees from vendors to support health and safety inspections.”

Community advocacy groups and local representatives reacted angrily to the senator’s “top-down” approach.

"Lara should devote his attention to issues that affect the state as a whole and not attempt to micromanage local concerns," said David DeVoss, director of Valley VOTE, a group based out of the San Fernando Valley.

A spokesman for Los Angeles City Councilman José Huizar had a different take.

"We normally don't like state legislation that restricts what we can do,” acknowledged Rick Coca, “but in this case, it might be good to have a state standard.”

Sidewalk vending has long been a flashpoint in a number of California cities, most notably L.A. The city moved to decriminalize the practice last year but has yet to adopt a licensing system. In countless other cities, there are no plans to decriminalize or permit the process at all. Lara’s bill would give them little choice.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.