The City Council voted this week to craft an ordinance decriminalizing street vending, bringing Los Angeles closer to no longer being the only major American city that prohibits it.
The proposal, which was put forward by council members Joe Buscaino and Curren Price, would replace criminal penalties with a permit system enforced through fines and property confiscation.
The 11-2 vote authorizes the city attorney to craft an ordinance, but there will likely be more debate and possible changes to the proposal before it comes back to the council for final approval.
The general idea for an ordinance decriminalizing street vending has the support of the Coalition to Save Small Business and the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign, but there has been significant opposition to key parts of the proposal as it stands, including the requirement that vendors get permission from existing brick and mortar businesses on the block and restricting the number of vendors in many areas to two per block.
Mike Dennis with the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign voiced support for decriminalization but requested changes to the proposed ordinance.
“We also want to make sure that two vendors per block is something that is reconsidered. It just doesn’t work when you are looking at the city’s blocks. It is a very diverse city and many blocks can accommodate more vendors per space,” Dennis said.
During a public hearing on the proposal at the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee on Dec. 12, Buscaino told the crowd that what was being advanced to the full council is a “framework” for a policy, and that if the council voted to direct staff to craft an ordinance, it would come back to the committee for a “full dissection” before going to back to the council again.
“Los Angeles is the only major city in this country that prohibits vending, every type of vending, 24 hours a day throughout the entire city over approximately 11,000 miles of sidewalks,” Buscaino said during the council debate Tuesday.
“The important question the council must answer is whether vending poses a threat so grave to public safety and welfare that is it worth continuing to expend limited police resources enforcing a citywide ban on all sidewalks at all times.”
The proposal also notes President Donald Trump’s stated goal of deporting immigrants with criminal records who are in the country illegally, and says, “Continuing to impose criminal misdemeanor penalties for vending disproportionately affects, and unfairly punishes, undocumented immigrants, and could potentially put them at risk for deportation.”