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Meet El Monte’s Pressure-Washing Hero Who Volunteers His Services to Street Vendors and Gets Rid of L.A.’s Greasy Streets

10:52 AM PST on December 1, 2021

This El Monte resident is the Batman of L.A.’s grimy sidewalks. When midnight strikes, he comes out of the shadows with a tank full of highly pressurized water, ready to volunteer his time to help hardworking street vendors with any of their power-washing needs. 

Now you may be asking yourself, power washing? Yes. Powerwashing. 

When street vendors are outselling their delicious food and goods in the streets, they often have to watch out for different agencies. One of them being “la ciudad” or “the city.” An umbrella term often used to describe the Bureau of Street Services, also known as Streets L.A., and the Department of Public Health. As seen in L.A. TACO’s continuous coverage, vendors are often targeted by agencies like the health department who conducts random raids where they regulate vendors for different things. During these raids, vendors often have their food thrown away, and in more extreme scenarios, they have their equipment taken away—be it for lack of permits or sanitation issues.

Sanitation is one of the most mentioned reasons, second only to permits, which is why services like Gerardo “Jerry” Casanova, owner of Imperium Wash Solutions, are so important. 

Casanova has been working in pest control since 2008, but last year he decided to start his own power washing business. But not just any hustle, aside from providing his services to local homes and businesses, he also volunteers his time with street vendors. He said his work with pest control goes hand in hand with sanitation, and he often educates vendors on best practices to minimize flies and ants near their stands. 

“Working in pest control, we used to get calls from street vendors for sanitation issues, and I eventually started asking the vendors who cleans their equipment and their streets, and some said nobody,” Casanova recalls. “And I’m all about helping people, so I decided to get involved.”

So he did what most agencies don’t do. He spoke with vendors. He figured out a solution, and in December of last year, he bought everything he needed to begin his power washing business and began offering free first-time services to street vendors. 

He said in his 13 years working in pest control, he has had the opportunity to work closely with code-enforcement and health inspectors,—which opened his eyes to how detail-oriented they can be when it comes to street vendors. “I know all the tricks they (health inspectors) can use to give out a ticket,” he stated. 

When he first started, he realized that most vendors could not afford services such as power washing unless they are in vendor communities or markets where vendors often pitch in for cleaning services. 

“I volunteer my time and offer this for free if they are able to pay great, but if they aren’t, I still help out,” he said. “I usually tell them this one is on the house, and if later on they are more stable and want to hire me, I’m here because the city will harass these vendors for anything.”

The 31-year-old said he has a soft spot for vendors because he grew up eating at his local taco spots or getting a snack from his local vendors like many in Los Angeles. He also has family who works as taqueros, so he knows their difficulties when dealing with the health department. His need to help out vendors was reinforced early this year when he read about the aggressive treatment and arrest of an Indigenous taquero in El Monte during a random health inspection. 

“It’s been a heartache seeing these vendors get ticketed or even have their things thrown away because of lack of sanitation,” he said. “And I’ve come across city members taking pictures of vendors setting up and letting evidence mount before they go after them, which isn't fair in my opinion.”

So instead of just watching from the sidelines, Casanova uses his days off from his full-time job working from midnight to five in the morning. Checking any build-up on vendor’s equipment, and washing the streets so come daylight the streets are clean. 

Although he predominantly works in the San Gabriel Valley, he said he has gone as far as San Bernandino to help a street vendor. He said he plans to leave his pest control work next year to focus full-time on his power washing business.

Casanova said not many vendors know about their services but said that he and his team could be reached via their Instagram, where street vendors and other businesses can request his services. 

“It’s about giving back. They are trying to make a living like everyone else,” he said. “So if they see this, I hope they know we’re here to help them. We’re just a call away.”

For more information on @Imperium_Wash_Solutions’s services, follow them on Instagram. 

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