LOS ANGELES — A City Council committee has voted to study a street vending system that could serve as a compromise between stakeholders who are divided on whether to legalize vending citywide or permit it only in some parts of the city, according to the panel’s chair.
Members of the Economic Development Committee were presented with an option Oct. 27 that would only allow vending in areas where a community has opted into doing so — which was heavily supported by business groups — and another backed by street vendor advocates that would legalize vending citywide.
Committee chair Curren Price proposed going with a third “hybrid” system that would legalize the activity everywhere in the city, but allow some areas to opt out.
There was dispute at first among the panel’s members about the exact action taken, particularly after Councilwoman Nury Martinez suggested city staffers should report back on all three models, saying she did not have enough information on any of the systems to make a decision on what policy to support.
After the meeting concluded, Martinez, Councilman Paul Krekorian and some city staffers had assumed that the panel voted to request reports on all three models, but Price aides later confirmed after reviewing the taped conversation that members had voted for Price’s proposal to only pursue the hybrid system.
Angelina Valencia, spokeswoman for Price, told City News Service about three hours after the meeting adjourned that the recording of the panel’s discussion and the City Clerk’s review of it confirmed the actual vote taken was in favor of moving forward only on the hybrid option.
Martinez’s chief of staff Jim Dantona told City News Service he believed the councilwoman’s requests for the two other reports were part of the recommendation supported by the Economic Development Committee.
The issue will again be taken up by the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, which Martinez also sits on, so she will “clarify” her recommendations there if Price indeed did not include it in the Economic Development Committee vote, Dantona said.
The Economic Development Committee will still need to seek approval from the full 15-member City Council before city staffers could be officially instructed to provide a more detailed report on the hybrid option, Valencia said.
The committee heard dozens of comments from business groups and street vendor advocates, with hundreds turning out for the meeting.
Similar crowds also attended half a dozen community meetings on the issue in recent months, and some speakers who have been pushing for about two years to legalize street vending in Los Angeles criticized committee members for asking for further reports, rather than reaching a policy decision.
Mike Dennis, spokesman for the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, which supports a citywide option, told City News Service the members who requested further reports had about a year to study the issue and appeared to show a “sincere lack of interest in resolving this issue as of now.”
“This is a policy that folks don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of, and I think they’re not sure where the right side is,” he said.
Business groups and street vendor advocates who spoke before the Economic Development Committee also appeared no closer on the issue than when Price and other council members first proposed legalizing street vending.
Some business groups such as the downtown-based Central City Association advocated vigorously for an “opt-in” system that would involve a specific community or city officials applying to set up a zone where vending would be allowed, while keeping the activity illegal elsewhere.
That option was attractive to those representing brick-and-mortar businesses who view street vendors as having an unfair competitive advantage due to their lower operating expenses.
Another idea to allow vending citywide, with rules regulating but allowing the businesses equally in all areas, was supported by the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, which has been advocating to legalize street vendors for the past two years.
The committee was also presented with a third idea to create a “hybrid” system in which vending would be allowed everywhere, but some areas could opt out.
Some groups proposed finer tweaks to the policy, such as setting a cap on the number of vending permits, similar to New York’s practice of allowing a maximum of 3,000 vendors. Another suggestion was to restrict vendors from operating near brick-and-mortar storefronts selling the same or similar goods.
The Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a San Fernando Valley area business chamber, said it supports the idea of a cap on the number of permitted vendors. It also wants vendors to receive permission from the owners of the property or sidewalk where they plan to operate, which is similar to Portland’s street vending system, the chamber’s officials said.
Members of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign have pushed back against efforts to place restrictions on the proposal to legalize street vending, saying that a similar approach in the past resulted in failure.
Dennis, the campaign’s spokesman, said approaches such as the permitting cap or the “opt-in” special districts would create a “black market” of rogue vendors who compete with the legal vendors.
An opt-in system was set up about 20 years ago, which only resulted in,one district in the MacArthur Park area, and that district no longer exists, Dennis said.