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South Gate City Council Makes Moves to Push Out Street Food Vendors

South Gate is in the heart of southeast Los Angeles, a city with street vendors engraved in its DNA. However, their City Council cite health hazards, safety hazards, and more to start cracking down on vendors operating in sidewalks, under street lights, parks, freeway exits, and more. Many of the city's residents and advocates wonder if the city's goal is solely to regulate vendors with no intention of helping them.

5:31 PM PDT on June 27, 2023

Photo: Janette Villafana for L.A. TACO.

South Gate City Council held a special meeting this past Monday where the topic of conversation was an ordinance that would crack down on street vendors. 

The proposed ordinance would impose stricter regulations on street vendors, from where they get to set up their stands to time limitations and permits. 

Well-known activist and street vendor advocate Edin Alex Enamorado was present along with residents, social media bloggers, and community advocates who were actively present at vendor buyouts and were there to speak in support of street vendors. 

In the ordinance presentation city council presented in detail their plan for implementing sidewalk vending rules in the city but not limited to:

  • Proof of insurance of a minimum of $1,000,000.
  • Vendors who use a push cart, identified as “roaming vendors,” are prohibited between 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. of the subsequent day.
  • No sidewalk vendor shall utilize any vending cart before sunrise or after sunset or in a location with insufficient lighting (as determined by the City) unless it is equipped with lighting or reflectors to alert pedestrians and vehicular travelers to the cart's presence.

There are other rules that have been implemented by the Health Department, but what the council failed to do was propose a pathway or plan to educate or support street vendors who operate in the area. A detail that highly concerned street vendor advocates who were present at the meeting. Many of them often wondered if the goal is solely to regulate vendors with no intention of helping them.

South Gate is in the heart of southeast Los Angeles, a city with street vendors engraved in its DNA. Many of them operate on sidewalks, under street lights, parks, freeway exits, and more. However, the council does not want street vendors in these spaces. They cite health and safety hazards despite studies and research proving that street vendors provide more than just delicious food. Those same studies show that street vendors provide safety on otherwise empty streets and sometimes provide a service for a community that may be lacking resources. 

As stated in a UCLA study:

“Street vending has the potential to provide necessary food access in food deserts. Both street vending and food deserts typically can be found in low-income communities of color…"

The study found that street vendors have a net positive contribution to both the economy broadly and neighboring businesses. Vendors contribute to the economy in a few ways. The input goods they buy are sourced predominately in Los Angeles County, generating $517 million in economic stimulus in 2012—additionally, vending generated over $100 million in vendor income in the same year.

The report estimates that for every dollar a street vendor earns, $1.60 in total economic benefit is generated.” 

Another study titled “Street Eats, Safe Eats” closely examines how street carts and food trucks compare to brick-and-mortar restaurants regarding food safety—reviewing more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven large American cities, including Los Angeles. 

“Street Eats, Safe Eats finds that in every city examined—Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.—food trucks and carts did as well as or better than restaurants.”

L.A. TACO reached out to the entire South Gate City council board, the Mayor, and Vice Mayor for a statement on what made them want to push for this ordinance and asked what resources or efforts they are taking to help support street vendors, but they have yet to answer. 

“Street vendors are part of this community, they are part of this family; I know they are the backbones of our community and of my childhood,” said a resident during the meeting. “So why would you want to take that away from us?”

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