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Selling Street Food in LA Will No Longer Be a Crime Starting in 2019

The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act encourages governments to determine own local laws, but with some guidelines

Street Vending LA
A Los Angeles street vendor
Matthew Kang
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a sweeping new law for California street vendors yesterday. Brown signed Senate Bill 946, a statewide legislation that regulates street vending practices. Also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, SB 946 requires cities and counties to maintain certain rules when interacting with street vendors. There’s a tremendous bonus for anyone selling food on city streets: sidewalk vending is no longer a crime.

State Senator Ricardo Lara introduced SB 946 back in February, which is designed to bring vendors out from the shadows as viable contributors to local economies. The ban is a bit tricky, as California cities and municipalities cannot prohibit or regulate vendors without an existing licensing system.

Many cities, including Los Angeles, do not have licensing systems in place for street vendors. That means street vendors are fairly free and clear to function under this new legislation until a licensing system is in place. California street vendor licensing systems must adhere to the following:

  1. California cities cannot ban vending in parks.
  2. Cities cannot determine where vendors can operate, unless there is a health, safety, or welfare concern.
  3. Street vendors are no longer required to ask permission from adjacent businesses to operate.

SB 946’s licensing guidelines encourages local governments to determine what works best. Los Angeles can determine whether to require business licenses, taxes, and health regulations for vendors selling fresh fruit or bacon-wrapped hot dogs. When street vendors violate the law, local governments can fine the offenders, or repeal operating licenses.

Street vending is a longstanding issue within Los Angeles. Hollywood launched a crackdown on street vendors in July, and an elotero had his cart overturned by an attacker last summer. And while Los Angeles City Council first introduced a measure to legitimize street vending in 2013, lawmakers have not passed anything yet to regulate the street vending system.

Advocacy group East LA Community Corporation praised another aspect of SB 946. Street vendors with previous citations and convictions can now clear their record, and have a path to legally sell street food. SB 946 goes into effect on January 1, 2019.

BREAKING NEWS! Governor Brown signed #SB946 the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. This means that sidewalk vending will no...

Posted by East LA Community Corporation on Monday, September 17, 2018