A Decade of Advocacy: Looking Back on the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign & Toward a More Inclusive Economy

This week, the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign reaches a major milestone: the Los Angeles City Council will vote on Wednesday to finally adopt either a permit system or regulatory system — or even a hybrid of both — leading to the legalization of sidewalk vending within the City of LA!

For us here at East LA Community Corporation and our partners at Leadership for Urban Renewal Network (LURN), Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC), and Public Counsel, the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign has always been about both protecting the rights and dignity of some of the most vulnerable workers in the city, and providing them with greater economic opportunity. Approximately 80 percent of street vendors are women of color who contribute to the rich, diverse street food landscape through the informal economy — and when allowed to do their work legally and safely — contribute to the vitality of their neighborhoods and LA as a whole.

This week’s City Council vote will allow street vendors to do just that, and comes after nearly a decade of advocacy from thousands of street vendors and their supporters. Here’s a brief recap of how we got here:

  • It all started in Boyle Heights in 2008, when a group of resident leaders told us that we needed to support their street vendor neighbors that were having issues with the police giving them tickets — harassment that lead to the eventual shutdown of a thriving but unsanctioned night market on Breed St. and Cesar Chavez Ave.

  • In 2010, we held our first community forum on the state of street vending, and in 2012, we formally kicked off the Los Angeles Street Vending Campaign with our partners. At that time, we expanded to include forums in Highland Park, Pacoima, Leimert Park, and more, soliciting feedback from Angelenos and learning how vendors could be part of an inclusive Los Angeles economy.

  • In 2013, Councilmembers Curren Price (CD9) and Jose Huizar (CD14)  — informed by our town hall meetings — introduced the motion to the Los Angeles City Council that started the conversation on a permit process.

  • In April of 2017, the City of Los Angeles decriminalized sidewalk vending in the wake of President Trump’s executive actions, allowing for only administrative fines to be given for any sidewalk vending violations. This protected vendors from exposure to being detained and potentially deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for vending.

  • In April 2018, City Council voted 11-4 to set up a permitting system for street vendors, tasking the City Attorney with drafting the ordinance Council members will vote on this week. We also successfully removed a stipulation from the Council proposal to give small business owners the power to veto vendor licenses — a dangerous idea that would have allowed them to extort vendors.

  • In September 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 946, introduced by Senator Ricardo Lara earlier in the year, which decriminalized sidewalk vending across the state and incentivized local jurisdictions to establish permit programs.
  • In October 2018, City Council introduced the option of either an established permit program or a regulatory process based on rules and regulations. Vendor leaders of the LA Street Vendor campaign unanimously supported the establishment of a permit system to protect the livelihood of vendors who have to compete for space and incentivize vendors to provide healthy foods.
  • Now, the City of Los Angeles’ vote on Wednesday will legalize vending, formally regulating sidewalk vending by January 1st, 2019. This is a critical vote for the city to comply with SB 946 and to continue to be the leading City on street vending.

However, our journey to build an inclusive economy for our community doesn’t end with this one vote. We will continue to fight for a City that values and supports street vendors with the best possible policies, and sees them as contributors to the economic and cultural tapestry of Los Angeles.

Shout out to our donors and funders for making this moment possible, including the support of the LA2050 Activation Challenge. The LA2050 grant allows us to activate Angelenos to engage in and build an inclusive economy that supports our 50,000 street vendors, whose entrepreneurship contributes to our neighborhood economies and cultural landscape.

You can support street vendors this holiday season by participating in our “buycott.” Whether it’s catering your holiday party, food to fuel your errands, or a social media shout out for your neighborhood vendor, there’s no better time to vote with your dollar and support these micro-entrepreneurs. Show us how you buycott by tagging us on social media and using the hashtag #SupportLAStreetVendors so we can reshare!

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