Skip to Content
News

Street Vendors Across All of California Are Now Legal – On Paper, At Least

12:39 AM PDT on September 19, 2018

‘This is honest,’ said water vendor Mike Jones.

[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]or Angelenos used to picking up a tamale for lunch on their way to work, or hitting up the Ave 26 taco stand after a Dodgers game, it may come as a surprise that street vending hasn't always been legal in Los Angeles.

It was only decriminalized in February of this year, after at least a decade of activism from organizing networks and street vendors themselves. And the sidewalk entrepreneurs are still waiting for Los Angeles to institute a permitting system that would give them more access to the formal economy.

Now, their efforts to fully legalize the practice might be getting a boost from Sacramento. On Monday, Governor Brown signed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, a bill authored by local state Senator Ricardo Lara that decriminalizes street vending across California.

Vendors rallied outside Hollywood & Highland/Photos by Daniel Hernandez.

Rudy Espinoza, director of the Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, says the success of the state bill is in large part thanks to the efforts of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign.

“Our campaign was beginning to field calls from other cities, and vendors and other organizations that were concerned about what was happening in their neck of the woods as well," Espinoza said. "It was happening in places across the state.”

Senate Bill 946 decriminalizes street vending but leaves it up to local governments to come up with a permitting process. And even in Los Angeles, local law enforcement still finds ways to target sidewalk businesses. Along Hollywood Boulevard, authorities started to enforce ordinances prohibiting the storage of bulky items on sidewalks – laws commonly used to target homeless encampments. Still, decriminalization is an important first step.

RELATED: L.A. Taco on KCRW: Listen to a Discussion on Street Vendors with Chery Glaser

[dropcap size=big]D[/dropcap]ecriminalization means a street vendor cannot be charged with a criminal offense for selling food or goods on the sidewalk. Under the current administration, Espinoza explains, having a chargeable criminal offense on your record – even if it turns out to be a misdemeanor – puts you at high risk for deportation. For the thousands of undocumented immigrants who turned to street vending to make a living, it's a big deal. There are an estimated 50,000 vendors in Los Angeles, and advocates say nearly 80% of them are women.

“Senate Bill 946 is basically taking a stand, in my opinion, saying street vendors should not be deported for trying to take care of their families,” he says.

The new state law also provides a means for a vendor to clear their record if they’ve got a pending criminal case open, and it sets guidelines for cities to create permit programs.

In Los Angeles, it's still business as usual for now. Next time you stop by your favorite fruit stand, you can give the vendor a high-five! for the state-level step, but there’s still a lot of work to be done, organizers say. Next step: the permitting process. Advocates are calling for the City Council to begin considering a proposed permitting ordinance that has been drafted by the City Attorney.

“We’re close,” Espinoza said.

RELATED: Street Vendors: ‘We’ll Believe Legalization Drive When We See it in Practice’

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Register to continue

Become a Member

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

Spot Check: Colombian Desgranados In Echo Park, Mexican Wine Festival At Mírate, and Perverted Waffles in DTLA

Plus, a party highlighting pan-African cuisine, a new Taiwanese cookbook by an awarded local from the San Gabriel Valley, and a Little Saigon food festival that starts tonight! Welcome back to Spot Check!

September 22, 2023

This 24-Year-Old Latina Mortician Beautifies the Dead and Influences the Living

Growing up in Arleta with a first-generation family from El Salvador, Berrios admits that her family only embraced her career choice two years ago, after she started to win awards like “Young Funeral Director of the Year.” The 24-year-old works as the licenced funeral director and embalmer at Hollywood Forever cemetery. As a young person born in peak Generation Z, she's documented her deathcare journey on TikTok and has accrued more than 43K followers on the platform. 

September 21, 2023

Meet ‘Carnitas Rogelio,’ The Family-Run Stand With The Best Michoacán-Style Carnitas O.C. Has to Offer

Michoacán-raised Rogelio Gonzalez slices the cuerito (the pig skin) in a checkered pattern to ensure a light crunch in each bite and utilizes every part of the pig, from the feet to the liver and intestines, which he binds together in a braid. 

September 20, 2023

‘The Office’ Star Rainn Wilson Brought Jerk Chicken Tacos to the Picket Lines Outside of Paramount Studios

In three hours, D's Tipsy Tacos and her team passed out “roughly 100 plates” of tacos, burritos, rice, beans, nachos, and quesadillas to striking screenwriters and actors.

September 19, 2023

Five Common Plants to Avoid When Creating Your Green Spaces in L.A.

Almost every time I visit a property with landscaping issues, the problem starts with bad design: the wrong plants in the wrong place. Here's advice from a third-generation L.A. landscaper and noted taco expert.

September 19, 2023
See all posts