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Street Vending

BREAKING: SB 972, Which Will Finally Help Street Vendors Get Local Health Permits, Signed Into Law By Newsom

street vendors in Sacramento

street vendors in Sacramento

After sitting on SB 972 for a couple of weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed the bill that promises to greatly help all street food vending in California to become fully legal.

The news broke this afternoon via a press release from the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom. SB 972 was signed as part of a package, along with additional bills aimed at making California more equitable and inclusive, including one that aims to remove tuition fees for non-residents at community colleges (AB 1232) and another that will allow undocumented immigrants to receive identification cards from the DMV (AB 1766).

“California is expanding opportunity for everyone, regardless of immigration status,” said Governor Newsom in the announcement. “We’re a state of refuge–a majority-minority state, where 27 percent of us are immigrants. That’s why I’m proud to announce the signing of today’s bills to further support our immigrant community, which makes our state stronger every single day.”

SB 972 was written and pushed by Long Beach Senator Lena Gonzalez. Her district has recently had a boom in street food vending, from new vendors selling fried fish sandwiches on the beach's boardwalk to a boom of new street taquerías that have been popping up on intersections all over Long Beach in the last three months.

L.A. county street vendors have been fighting to become fully legalized—specifically through obtaining a permit from their respective city's local health department—for over a decade now. The movement started in 2009 to become more inclusive and see street vendors as micro-entrepreneurs (SB 946).

Street vending was first legalized in 2018; L.A. issued its first permit in 2020. However, that was aimed more at the sale of goods. Street food vending was a whole other deal because local health departments had still not configured their food code, which was primarily aimed at brick-and-mortar establishments. Since 2020, street vendors have been organizing and letting their voices be heard, fighting for their right to legally make a living selling food.

Recently, many L.A. street vendors traveled to Sacramento to speak at the Senate floor, convincing them to support SB 972 through a unanimous bipartisan vote. Newsom had until October 1st to sign it, which he just did.

Cesar Benitez, an L.A. street food vendor, tells L.A. TACO he is speechless, audibly emotional and celebrating. "This is a step forward. We’ve been en la lucha working hard to make change, and here we are today,” he says.

Merlin Alvarado, a bacon-wrapped hot dog vendor in Hollywood who has also been advocating for SB 972, is similarly elated, telling L.A. TACO, “Lo hicimos. Estoy feliz.”

“The passage of SB 972 is a major victory for street food vendors in California,” says Rudy Espinoza, the executive director of Inclusive Action for the City and one of the biggest advocates of California's street vending legalization movement. “It’s another major step that recognizes what so many of us already know… that street food vendors are workers, mothers, fathers, and leaders. When we take their lead, we can make amazing policy that supports inclusive economies and public health.”

Vendors are preparing to host a massive celebration at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights to celebrate this momentous moment in California's food history, set to take place on September 30th.

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

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