After three years of consideration, the Los Angeles City Council took its first step toward legalizing street vending Monday afternoon.
The council’s Public Works Committee approved 4-0 a framework for regulating street vending after more than an hour of testimony. The plan now goes to the full council, which is expected to order City Attorney Mike Feuer to craft an ordinance.
The proposal was put forward by Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Curren Price last month following the election of Donald Trump as president. The councilmen said since street vending is currently illegal in Los Angeles, many vendors who lack legal immigration documentation have amassed criminal records and could be subject to deportation under Trump administration policies.
To address this directly, Councilman David Ryu proposed an amendment Monday offering amnesty to all street vendors who have been charged with misdemeanor crimes for vending activity.
The street vending plan itself calls on the city to establish a permitting process allowing for a maximum of two street vendors per block and requiring consent from adjacent brick-and-mortar businesses and property owners before those permits would be issued. Vendors would have to pay business taxes, obtain county health permits, and also obtain liability insurance.
Under the plan, vending in residential neighborhoods would be strictly limited, while all neighborhoods would be able to apply for special zones to set their own vending hours and operating rules.
Street vendors greeted the plan with cautious optimism.
“After three years, they are realizing that we are not criminals,” street vendor Merced Sanchez said at a press conference on the steps of City Hall following the committee vote, according to a news release from LA Street Vendor Campaign. “We hope to be able to operate out of the shadows and without the fear of heavy fines and equipment confiscation.”
A coalition of brick-and-mortar store operators and property owners that has opposed a broad legalization of street vending said the plan does have some workable elements.
The Coalition to Save Small Business said at a pre-hearing news conference that it supported decriminalizing street vending and many of the proposed requirements. But the coalition said individual communities should have more ability to ban street vending entirely if they choose.
The full council could act on the proposal as early as Friday.
Public policy and energy reporter Howard Fine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @howardafine.