Los Angeles to Make Street Vending Legal

Los Angeles to Make Street Vending Legal

Some Real Estate, Business Stakeholders Call the Move Long Overdue
Street vendors are common along Hollywood's Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Courtesy of Hollywood BID.

Street vendors are common along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Courtesy of Hollywood BID.

Los Angeles is legalizing and regulating street vending, making it the nation’s last major city to officially embrace sidewalk sellers in a move welcomed by some real estate and business executives.

The Los Angeles City Council voted 13-0 on Wednesday to set rules that allow municipal officials to grant permits to street vendors for the first time in the nation’s second-largest city, ending years of debate by the council as it worked on a plan to legalize the practice.

Street vending is of particular concern to commercial building owners and brokers because vendors can block and discourage potential customers from entering retail outlets, making the sites less desirable and pushing down rents. The council accelerated its plans following a state law, known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, passed this year by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat. It prohibits local governments from regulating sidewalk vendors without setting up a licensing system.

“Los Angeles has been the only major city that prohibits vending, leading up to today, of every type, 24 hours a day throughout the entire city of 11,000 miles of sidewalks,” City Councilman Joe Buscaino told a crowd filled with hundreds of street vendors who applauded the council’s support.

Los Angeles, known as the City of Angels, has about 20,000 street vendors citywide but has not legally sanctioned them until now, Buscaino said.

The South Park Business Improvement District, a group known as BID that represents a 52-block area in downtown Los Angeles and includes on its board representatives from real estate firms Mack Urban, Jade Enterprises and Bieker Company, has always supported the “decriminalization of sidewalk vending,” according to Ellen Riotto, executive director of the district.

“Because our district includes the entertainment hubs of Staples Center and LA LIVE , where dozens of vendors converge to sell to event attendees, we see the impacts of unregulated vendors every day,” Riotto said in an email. “Without regulation and enforcement, vendors create public safety concerns from several different perspectives: sidewalks are made impassable due to the number of vendors congregating, and pedestrians are forced off sidewalks and into the streets.”

Riotto said faulty gas tanks on food carts have exploded on several occasions, “releasing six-foot flames into a crowd of hundreds” and unsold food products have been dumped on sidewalks, creating a hazard for pedestrians who could trip and fall.

“The BID and our stakeholders are counting on the city to ensure that the permitting process is thorough and enforced,” she said.

Under the ordinance, street vendors would be allowed to pay a fee and receive a permit. They will not be allowed to sell their wares in such places as Elysian Park during events at Dodger Stadium, or within 500 feet of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, and Staples Center and L.A. Live.

It also states carts must have safety wheel locks and will not be allowed to set up shop at bus stops.

Vendors must also be a minimum of 20 feet from entrances to “any building, store, theater, movie house, house of worship or place of public assembly.”

They must also be no less than five feet from fire hydrants, and distances between street vendors should be “two feet clear.” No vending is allowed in roadways, medians, pedestrian islands or bikeways.

There will also be regulations regarding the disposal of rubbish, including sealing trash in plastic bags before disposing of it.

The plan calls for the rules to take effect on Jan. 1.