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Street Vending

Despite Public Pressure and Two Meetings with Cedillo, Displaced Ave 26 Street Vendors Still Have No Answers

Patrons of Ave 26 Tacos get food on Humboldt Street near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]ollowing the closure of the popular Avenue 26 night market last week, a total of four vendors were set to meet with councilmember Gil Cedillo for the second time this last Tuesday to discuss a  potential re-opening. Unfortunately for vendors, Cedillo did not show up to the meeting; instead, they met with District Director Hugo Ortiz and Jose Rodriguez. The meeting took place at Tierra Mia on Broadway in Lincoln Heights around noon and lasted two hours. 

Both meetings came after over 100 street vendors woke up to the news that Avenue 26 was being sequestered. As early as 11 AM last Thursday, some vendors found out that chain-linked fences and cement barriers were being installed to keep them out. The closure came with no warning and left vendors frustrated with the abrupt decision as many of them depend full-time on street vending. According to Edin Enamorado, an advocate for vendors who has provided security assistance for street vendors, the meeting with Cedillo’s representatives was a start at finding a solution. Still, it left vendors with little to no answers.  

“They said Avenue 26 was going to reopen, now they are saying they don’t know when, but what they do know is they want vendors to relocate to a different area,” said Enamorado. 

Meaning if the market were to re-open, it wouldn’t be at its original location. 

Last week, L.A. TACO reached out to Cedillo’s office after he met with street vendors, where it was asked if there were any plans of re-opening or relocating the market? His office responded with: “No, Councilmember Cedillo is not re-opening the Artesian Night Market. There are no plans to reopen.”

However, Cedillo gave vendors some hope last Friday when he met with them and asked them to find new areas where they could move, and he’d see how he could help them. 

Patrons of Ave 26 Tacos walk with food on Humboldt Street adjacent to the closure of Artesian Place near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)
Patrons of Ave 26 Tacos walk with food on Humboldt Street adjacent to the closure of Artesian Place near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)
Patrons of Ave 26 Tacos walk with food on Humboldt Street adjacent to the closure of Artesian Place near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)

Joseph Calderon, CEO of ATM Dependable, said after Cedillo told vendors to look for alternate areas to relocate the market, he made sure to come prepared for Tuesday’s meeting. Calderon, an ATM vendor supplying machines used at the famous market, presented a PowerPoint with five different locations. Each location came with a description of why those areas would work. Descriptions included large parking spaces, areas with little to no traffic, enough distance to residential homes, and more. Some of the locations included Avenue 21, Avenue 18 on the corner of Barranca and Avenue 19, and Humbolt between San Fernando St. and Avenue 19. 

“They said no to every single one of them,” Calderon said. “The city said they asked property owners if they would be okay with the market taking place in said location, but because of how big it grew, they said owners said no, but I'm going to try going and asking myself.”

Enamorado and Calderon said, aside from relocating to a different area. The city wants street vendors to move to a location where local businesses can rent out their parking for the market to avoid overcrowding. Enamorado said getting businesses to cooperate is another obstacle facing vendors as they look for new locations. 

“The ultimate goal is to find a permanent location on private property, which would be ideal. The locations in the PowerPoint were relatively close to the original location,” Calderon said. “We wanted to keep it close so customers could find vendors easily because we recognize that if we were to go even 10 miles down, vendors wouldn’t have the same clientele.”

An example of the powerpoint presentation created by
A screenshot of the PowerPoint presentation presented to Cedillo's staff, created by Joseph Calderon.

Location plays a massive role in the sales a street vendor makes, Enamorado who has been in communication with street vendors, said he offered a location in Cudahy. “But vendors want to stay near Avenue 26,” he said. “Their main clients live in the area, so moving is tricky.” 

“They have this mentality that it’s better to give them a ticket or shut them down than to educate them and talk to them, and that doesn’t solve anything. There needs to be real interest from politicians and the city because what happened at Avenue 26 will continue to happen over and over if they don’t start taking real action.”

Don Luis Peralta was one of Ave 26’s vendors present during the initial meeting with Cedillo. He is the owner of El Dulce stand and one of the vendors who put his foot down when looking for other locations and told Cedillo’s team he and other vendors were going to set up nearby in the meanwhile. Peralto also told Cedillo’s team that in the meantime, vendors would be moving to Humboldt Street despite it being a proposed location already rejected by Cedillo. Calderon tells L.A. TACO that Cedillo’s team responded with, “Do what you have to do.” 

“We hope we could fix this because we need to work, we will be patient, but we will not accept to wait much longer,” said Peralta in Spanish. 

In a statement sent to L.A. TACO last week, Peralta and his son talked about the miscommunication between Cedillo’s team and vendors. Initially, they were told fencing was due to repairs needed on Artesian Street. Later they found out the location would be permanently closed. 

Sergio Jimenez, an organizer with the non-profit Community Power Collective said communication is missing. Jimenez is one of many who visited the market in its early stages of operation, where he remembers as little as three taqueros vending. A stark difference from the over 100 vendors who sold leading up to the closure. He described the atmosphere at Avenue 26 before street vendors as lonely, dark, and isolated, “Street vendors are what brought life to an alley that was forgotten, and had no life,” he said. 

Jimenez said the closure is similar to the shutdowns and sweeps done at Leimert Park, Echo Park, and Bonnie Brae. The health department conducted a sweep of the Guatemalan Night Market and Echo Park, where fences were put up, keeping vendors out of the park. 

“They have this mentality that it’s better to give them a ticket or shut them down than to educate them and talk to them, and that doesn’t solve anything. There needs to be real interest from politicians and the city because what happened at Avenue 26 will continue to happen over and over if they don’t start taking real action,” said Jimenez. “Relocating without assistance does nothing.”

Supporters of Avenue 26 took to social media to share their reactions over the weekend, where  Twitter users said things like: “It needed better lighting. It needed traffic control. Did NOT need to be shut down.” While others said: “One of the things we saw was the amount of trash left on the sidewalks.” 

“The position we’re taking is yes, we’re gonna be patient, and we will work with the city, but at the end of the day, the vendors come first,” he said. “And they can’t wait too long.”

Vendors did not deny at any point that the market had grown out of their control. They have and still are continuing to address the concerns brought up by residents and neighbors. Vendors and advocates have insisted that it isn’t that street vendors don’t want to follow any rules. It’s that they need help when it comes to such a large market like Avenue 26. 

Vendors line Humboldt Street near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)
Vendors line Humboldt Street near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)
Vendors line Humboldt Street near Ave. 26 in Northeast Los Angeles, CA on August 6, 2021. (Brian Feinzimer)

A merchandise vendor, Celia, 64, who’d prefer to go by her first name, is one of the vendors who showed up at Avenue 26 yesterday hoping to hear an update about the market. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to sell this weekend,” she said with a look of worry on her face. Although she sells clothes, she told us her husband was about to start looking into selling food, but then the closure happened. Both depend full-time on their sales at Avenue 26. “No hay otra manera (there is no other way) to make money other than this,” she said. “I really hope they help us because I don’t think we can go another week without selling.”

L.A. TACO did reach out to Cedillo’s office for a statement regarding this last meeting, but they have not responded. In the meantime, Calderon said, vendors are asking for assistance in facilitating agreements with property owners, security assistance, trash pick-up assistance, and financial support while the situation gets resolved. 

According to vendors, officials responded by saying they would be willing to provide portable bathrooms and security and would see what other areas they could help. But without a proper location approved by Cedillo’s office, Avenue 26 will remain closed. 

Calderon pointed out that although not everything is resolved, a dialogue between them and officials has begun, and to them, that is progress. 

“The position we’re taking is yes, we’re gonna be patient, and we will work with the city, but at the end of the day, the vendors come first,” he said. “And they can’t wait too long.”

L.A. TACO has confirmed that a few vendors at Ave 26 have relocated to 1999 Humboldt St, Los Angeles, CA 900031, the next block over. However, the location is temporary.   

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