California Decriminalizes Street Vending

Life is about to get easier for the thousands of street vendors who operate, often illegally, on sidewalks and street corners across the state every day. On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act or SB 946 into law. The legislation, authored by Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), will decriminalize street vending statewide, allow for a new local permitting system, and provide relief to those who have already faced prosecution for unpermitted vending in the past.

Until now, there has been no cohesive approach to local vending. A number of towns have cracked down on the practice, often cultivating in viral arrest stories and videos.

The vast majority of street vendors are minorities with little income and a number of them are in the country illegally. An estimated 80% in Los Angeles County are female. The demographics have raised a number of social and economic questions. The City of L.A., for instance, was finally motivated to decriminalize the practice in order to spare vendors from deportation. 

It’s important to note that SB 946 does not completely handicap city and county governments’ regulating powers. Under the new law, they can restrict the practice to certain locations, bar it from specific events, and ensure that health and safety standards are in place. Violators will be punished administratively rather than face criminal prosecution, however.

Read more at LAist