Despite legislation enacted in 2018 in Los Angeles and California to legalize street vending, most vendors face threats of ticketing, harassment and fines each day, according to a report released by the UCLA School of Law Community Economic Development Clinic and the nonprofit law firm Public Counsel.
The report “Unfinished Business: How Food Regulations Starve Sidewalk Vendors of Opportunity and What Can Be Done to Finish the Legalization of Street Food’’ included testimony from sidewalk vendors and claimed that the system punishes vendors, with sheriff’s deputies issuing tickets and confiscating carts, depriving them of their livelihood.
“The problem stems from a tangled web of state, county, and city laws that deprive sidewalk vendors of access to permits to legally sell food, denying vendor dreams of entrepreneurialism while hurting all Angelenos by undermining the food safety principles the laws claim to protect,’’ said the report’s co-author Scott Cummings of UCLA’s Community Economic Development Clinic.
“Even as local officials make it easier for brick-and-mortar restaurants to conduct outdoor dining, we see them continue to vigorously enforce a system that operates as a de facto ban on LA’s celebrated street food.’’
People applying for food vendor permits from Los Angeles County have to navigate an English-only process involving several offices and multiple prerequisite documents, according to the report, which adds that people aren’t given adequate assistance during the process. Only 165 permits have been issued since the city began issuing permits in 2020. The report estimates about 10,000 eligible vendors operate in the city.
Startup costs for those selling unpackaged food is at least $10,000, plus $5,000 in annual fees, while many workers earn an average of only $15,000 per year, the report stated.
Vendors also have to meet equipment standards that were created to regulate large food trucks and include requirements for integrated multiple-compartment sinks, plumbing, ventilation, refrigeration and high-capacity food storage. Food carts that meet these requirements cost thousands of dollars, are heavy to push and too large for normal sidewalks, according to the report.
The California Retail Food Code effectively bans fruit carts and taco stands by prohibiting slicing fruit, reheating, or hot-holding previously prepared food on an enclosed food cart, the report said.