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Street Food Vendors Take Another Hit as LA Votes Them Off Parks and Beaches

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It's the return of a long-dormant ordinance.

A vendor sells at Echo Park Lake on a sunny day, pushing a cart of paletas.
A vendor selling in Echo Park
Farley Elliott

More bad news on the street food front. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the city’s long-suspended laws regarding open vending in parks and on beaches is being re-instated, which will effectively shut down everyone from paletas vendors in Venice to tamaleros in MacArthur Park, sweeping up yoga and bootcamp teachers in the process.

L.A. as a municipality has long been no fan of street food — sidewalk vending has remained illegal, and crackdowns are common —but this recent slate of legislation aimed at further alienating the existing culture seems particularly out of step with the current reality. Street food festivals abound across Los Angeles, and the public outcry to reform the currently antiquated system has been growing steadily, which makes the news all the more troubling for the many thousands of vendors seeking to safely sell their wares.

As the Times piece notes, on Tuesday the City Council voted to revive and reform the current rules on the books regarding beach and park vending, going so far as to attempt to solidify a scale for fines and criminal charges against repeat offenders.

The 13 to 2 vote was not without controversy itself, as dissenting council members offered a bleak appraisal of the future of immigration reform and street food in general should the ordinance pass. Pro-ban legislators like Joe Buscaino retorted that the legal protections would keep the city buffered from any possible litigation should someone fall ill from a bite of illegally-sold food, or hurt themselves when an unlicensed yoga instructor sets up on the beach.

Once implemented, the effective ban would require vendors to either seek costly, sometimes unclear permits in order to vend, or operate illegally and hope for the best. Neither is currently a great option, says the LA Street Vendor Campaign, and could further create havoc in what is already one of the country’s worst legal street food environments.

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