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Street Vending

We Asked L.A. and Long Beach Mayoral Candidates How They Would Treat Street Vendors if Elected

A brief exchange between L.A. mayoral candidates Representative Karen Bass and Rick Caruso about street food vendors perked our (and many others) ears up at their September 21 debate.

In answer to a moderator's question about whether she'd have vendors on the street and regulate, or move to a marketplace, Bass indicated she'd be open to both approaches, according to what the vendors want. Amid her answer, she interjected, "it'll be interesting to see street vendors in front of The Grove," to which Caruso replied, "We've had it, we've had it." Bass went on to stress the importance of communicating with entrepreneurs who sell food on the street and expressing concern for their overall safety.

Which made us curious as to what our mayoral candidates maintain as their official stances on the critical issue of L.A.'s street vendors. Hoping to push toward political platitudes, we reached out to both of their offices and Long Beach's mayoral candidates to ask for their statements on the still-pending, now passed SB 972, and details on what they specifically would do for street vendors if elected.

Read on for their answers, then go out and vote with your heads clear and your hearts open on November 8.

Representative Karen Bass's campaign sent L.A. TACO her following statement:

"For decades, street vending has been an instrumental part of the economic fabric of Los Angeles, and it serves as a vessel for economic mobility for so many families, particularly Latinos. After hard-earned advances, the pandemic erased years of progress for small businesses. In fact, 15,000 small businesses shut down during the pandemic in Los Angeles alone, many of them permanently, and what we found is that Black and Latino small business owners were hit the hardest. It is important to recognize the honest work of L.A.'s street vendors and to ensure our city’s policies accelerate their recovery from the pandemic and support new vendors.

If I have the honor of being elected as Mayor of Los Angeles, my administration will support these micro-entrepreneurs in a number of ways. I will appoint a Deputy Mayor for Small Businesses who will ensure we have an Outreach Team that advocates for and liaises with our small business community, including supporting street vendors in attaining vending permits and meeting the City's health standards. We will streamline bureaucracy, improve outreach and facilitate paths forward that support them toward their own brick-and-mortar businesses if they have that goal in mind. Another focus of my administration would be to ensure the safety of L.A.’s sidewalk vendors. I would incentivize more vendors to complete the Street Vending Entrepreneurial Educational Program, reducing fees for those who partake in this educational program on street vending that emphasizes community safety.

The passage of SB 972 is an important victory for sidewalk food vendors, as they have been making a hard-earned living for themselves and their families across L.A. and the state. The law now codifies greater opportunity for them to operate to their full potential as small businesses with more sensible regulations. Now we need to make sure we expedite the efforts to help vendors get their permits and that we implement the program well, so they can operate safely and grow as small businesses. I look forward to continuing to support the leadership of vendors and their advocates across Los Angeles and California and making sure our government continues to support their contributions to our local economies."

The following statement was sent to us by Rick Caruso's campaign spokeswoman Margita Thompson:

“Street vendors are small businesses, and small businesses are the backbone of Los Angeles. However, street vendors are often left out of the formal economy due to extensive and expensive government requirements. Rick Caruso supports regulations that allow them to continue to operate in a way that is safe for them and our communities. He believes that people who start out as street vendors could one day grow into a storefront, creating even more jobs. Street vendors are entrepreneurs who work hard to take care of their families and make their dreams come true, often expanding food options in underinvested communities. When Rick is Mayor, he will advance proactive initiatives in support of street vendors, including a microloan program to buy carts. Rick Caruso wants everyone to succeed—that’s why he wants to be Mayor.”

Observing a recent boom of street food vending in Long Beach, as well as the city's ensuing crackdown that involves ticketing and criminalizing street vendors, L.A. TACO also wanted to reach out to the two mayoral candidates in Long Beach, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilmember Suzie Price, for their own statements on what they will do for street vendors should they be elected. As of publication time, Price's campaign is yet to answer our request, which was sent to a general information email address.

Long Beach Mayoral Candidate and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson's campaign sent us the following statement:

"As Vice Mayor, I have championed creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Long Beach, including street vendors. Sidewalk vending of food promotes economic development opportunities for low-income and immigrant communities. I was proud to vote for a resolution in support SB 972 earlier this year, as well as an additional resolution to calling for the state law create an education-first approach to health permitting enforcement. I look forward to continuing our work on ensuring street vendors have the resources they need to operate safely in Long Beach."

Long Beach Mayoral Candidate and Councilwoman Suzie Price sent L.A. TACO her following statement:

"As a small business owner myself, it’s hard to run a business, and I know it’s not any easier when the rules aren’t clear. I strongly support all of our local businesses whether they are brick and mortar, food trucks, or street vendors. Just last month, the City Council passed an item to continue refining our local ordinance in a way that anticipates growth for both street vendors and our brick-and-mortar businesses that will make sure everyone gets on the same page about the new state law and follows all health and safety codes, like allowing for ADA sidewalk access. Long Beach welcomes new businesses and is a place where we want to see everyone succeed and add even more entrepreneurial energy to our amazing city."

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