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BREAKING: Street Food Vendors Everywhere Threatened By Santa Monica Senator’s New SB-1290

4:26 PM PDT on May 26, 2022

Photo from L.A. TACO archives.

Photo from L.A. TACO archives.

Last night, Santa Monica Senator Ben Allen took the floor in Sacramento to push and defend SB-1290, a bill he introduced earlier this year that would give California cities the power to re-criminalize street vendors and increase the fines given to them. This new bill, which received a majority vote in the Senate yesterday and is now due to be reviewed in the California State Assembly, effectively modifies Ricardo Lara’s SB-946, which the governor approved in 2018 and was celebrated across the state for finally decriminalizing street vending. 

According to Allen’s session last night explaining SB-1290, his bill seeks to create greater fines for regulating street vendors in highly visited tourist sites across the state. He argues that SB-946’s flexibilities pose “challenges” to brick and mortar businesses and local authorities when it comes to regulating street vendors who “operate in a twilight zone.” He cited the example of a small number of “bad vendors” who allegedly use open flames on the Santa Monica Pier that also “dump grease into the ocean.”  

Allen’s bill would additionally undo the flexibilities that Lara wrote into SB-946 to protect low-income street vendors, which prohibited fines from being increased for repeat offenses. Allen’s bill would give local authorities the ability to increase fines, regardless of income level. Senator Maria Elena Durazo of District 24 disagreed with Allen’s bill and voted against it, arguing that local policymakers should “not pile on the punishments and fines, but instead make it easier for vulnerable street vendors and encourage them to find the right solutions.” She compares the legalization process of street vendors to the process of legalizing cannabis in California. 

Instead, Durazo advocates SB-972, written by Long Beach Senator Lena Gonzalez and co-authored by Durazo. This bill, which also was just approved by the Senate today at 3:33 PM,  aims to revise the dated food code in California that has not been updated to reflect street vendor needs.

Critics argue that Allen’s bill is reversing the progress made over the last decade to find a pathway to legal street vending in California, and runs the risk of not being recognized as the penalization-based bill that it actually is. As opposed to SB-972, which aims to amend the current framework without increasing Lara’s current misdemeanor fine system. The next step is for both SB-972 and SB-1290 to be voted on in the Assembly, which could come as early as next week. 

L.A. TACO will update this story as it develops. 

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