LOS ANGELES — A new proposal to permit street vending in Los Angeles is an “improvement” over previous efforts to legalize the activity, officials with a group representing small businesses said Nov. 23, but they urged the City Council to ensure the program is properly enforced.
The Coalition to Save Small Business, which is made up of more than 1,300 small businesses, released a statement saying the plan released by council members Curren Price and Joe Buscaino “is an improvement over earlier efforts to allow unregulated, citywide street vending and we support many of its provisions.”
But the coalition, which says many of its businesses are run by immigrants, said it is seeking “a level playing field where brick-and-mortar businesses are not put at a disadvantage by another type of business that’s not following the rules.”
A lack of funds for enforcement has stymied past efforts, such as an earlier vendor program in the MacArthur Park area, according to the coalition.
“Unlicensed vendors continued to sell their products and took customers from properly permitted street vendors,” the group contended.
This time around, the coalition said its members “trust that resources will be authorized to assure the successful implementation of new regulations and permitting procedures for street vending in Los Angeles.”
Under the new proposal, Buscaino and Price are proposing to remove criminal penalties as an enforcement tool, leaving only fines, property confiscation and permit suspension or revocation as deterrence against unpermitted vending.
The vending plan comes as the stakes have potentially been raised for undocumented immigrants following the election of Donald Trump, a vocal proponent of deporting people who are in the country illegally and have criminal records.
The move also follows pressure from activists concerned that vendors who are struggling to make ends meet are being treated as criminals under the city’s current vending laws.
The coalition said it does not “wish to criminalize street vendors” and “believes in the opportunity for all to succeed through a clear outline of fair rules and regulations that are implemented consistently.”
The coalition in recent months has recommended that city lawmakers set limits on street vendor operating hours and the number of permits given out, and ensure that the vendors are supported by the community in which they operate.
The City Council is set to resume consideration of the street vending issue after it was stalled for more than a year in the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee.
That panel’s chair, Buscaino, announced last week that a “framework” of a vendor-permitting program has been crafted and will be the subject of a Dec. 12 public hearing.
Buscaino and Price, who helped advance the issue in his own committee, urged colleagues in a letter this week to move “swiftly” on adopting a street vending policy, saying it “gives us as a city the opportunity to stand up to the overt racism that has plagued our national discourse as of late.”
Their plan calls for permitting stationary vending, such as taco stands, in commercial and industrial areas around the city, as long as walkways are not obstructed and no more than two vendors are operating per block.
Most vending in residential areas would be prohibited under the plan, though an exception could be made for smaller, mobile push-cart vendors, the council members said.
The plan also calls for doing away with misdemeanor and other criminal penalties, and instead, enforcing the rules through fines, confiscation of property and the revocation or suspension of permits. Only vendors with permits would be allowed to operate in the city.
Vendors would be limited to operating during the day and evening, such as between 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Other hours of operation could be permitted for special cases, such as sporting and entertainment events, the council members said.
The proposed policy would also allow for the creation of “special districts” where more permissive or restrictive rules could be established. In setting up the districts, neighborhoods would need to have a “legitimate” reason for making the rules more restrictive. Those who want more flexible rules would have to show that it would not have a negative impact, under the proposal.
Those wishing to set up such a special district would be able to do it through the City Council, the Board of Public Works or a petition with signatures from 20 percent of property owners or businesses in the proposed area.