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Legalize L.A. street vendors

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A bill pending in the state legislature would give food vendors in Los Angeles and cities across the state a chance to make a living without fear of losing their equipment.

Senate Bill 946 would loosen restrictions on where sidewalk vendors can operate, and vendors who violate those restrictions would only get an administrative fine.

This is a great move by the state and good for the city because vendors currently live in fear of local authorities. It is not uncommon for a taco, fruit or hot dog vendor to be told to pack up and that their property will be towed away. This almost always happens late at night, oven going unnoticed as they can be lost in a sea of other vendors.

The equipment that vendors use to prepare and sell their food is not cheap and having legal permission to sell within city limits will give these people peace of mind.

According to the text of the proposed bill: “Sidewalk vending provides important entrepreneurship and economic development opportunities to low-income and immigrant communities (It) increases access to desired goods, such as culturally significant food and merchandise and contributes to a safe and dynamic public space.”

Much uncertainty still lies with how Los Angeles will distribute permits.

“I am really going to try and get one,” said Los Angeles street taco vendor Roman Gonzalez. “There is a lot of people out here doing the same thing and if I do not get one, I will be in the same situation I am in now… I have had my carts taken away in the middle of the night and left with no choice but use all the money I have to get another one.”

Gonzalez immigrated to Los Angeles in 2015 on a worker’s visa but has only been able to make a living through street vending because he does not speak any English.

“It is a great (program) but we still do not have enough information to get our hopes up too high.”

A website has also surfaced advocating for street vendors. Streetvendorsforla.org showcases the missed opportunities the city has overlooked by putting faces to the stories and uses the hashtag #LAStreetVendors to share those stories.

Permits will bring peace of mind to the thousands of food vendors who work in fear every day, but whether there will be enough permits for everyone may not be known until the bill turns into law.

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