Last week, a state senator introduced a new law designed to legitimize street vendors in California. First reported by the Los Angeles Times, Ricardo Lara, a California State Senator from Bell Gardens, created Senate Bill 946, also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. SB 946 is designed to regulate sidewalk vending statewide, along with a slew of regulations to be followed at the local level.
Street food vendors are an everyday occurrence in Los Angeles, but the city has struggled to develop comprehensive laws to regulate the industry. Existing street vendor ordinances vary from city-to-city, with local authorities creating strict rules on where, how, and when a street vendor can operate. SB 946 requires local governments to create a sidewalk vending licensing program, which cannot produce unreasonable restrictions on where street vendors operate, unless there is a health, safety, or welfare issue. SB 946 also prohibits street vendors from breaking the rules in the proposed licensing programs, or operating without a license. Both violations are punishable by fines.
As the country’s largest city without a street vending policy, LA’s inability to address the issue has been the cause of confusion and fear. The Avenue 26 taco stand was raided last October and their goods confiscated, with a baffling explanation from the health department. At the end of 2017, LA’s city council discussed limiting the number of any vendors on Los Angeles streets, but nothing was passed. The issue becomes that more complex when considering LA’s sanctuary city status, in the era of an empowered Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.