Hugo Soto-Martinez, part of a crop of new LA city councilmembers, is hoping to change how street vendors operate on a touristy stretch of Hollywood. Soto-Martinez told Capital & Main that he wants to eliminate a ban on street vending that includes the Hollywood Walk of Fame which stretches throughout Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Soto-Martinez — who represents Hollywood and East Hollywood — is looking into removing a city ordinance that restricts where street food and retail vendors can operate, also known as no-vending zones. These eight zones are near high-volume tourist areas like Griffith Park, the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, the Banc of California Stadium, and the 1.3-mile-long Walk of Fame.
In 2018, the council established the no-vending zones after then Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 946/the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. The bill essentially decriminalized street vending. In December 2022, street vendors filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, claiming the zones are a violation of SB 946 and that the ordinance favors brick-and-mortar businesses, which complain that street vendors are direct competition. Currently, anyone caught selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a cart in a no-vending zone faces fines ranging from $100 to $200.
The lawsuit takes issue with state law versus LA’s no-vending zone. SB 946 states that no-vending zones must encourage health and safety, and LA officials state that the no-vending zone helps with overcrowding. But the lawsuit asks for clarity: If restaurants can expand onto sidewalks, why can’t street vendors? SB 946 also notes that “economic competition does not constitute an objective health, safety, or welfare concern.” The lawsuit also complains that the no-vending zones are targeted by the Bureau of Street Services, while vendors selling outside of the no-vending zones are still cited after a complaint from a business.
Even though SB 946 was written into law four years ago, the fight for street vendor rights continues. Last September, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to modernize state codes and regulations surrounding street vending. Senate Bill 972 is designed to make it easier for vendors to sell food on streets throughout the state by updating outdated requirements to purchase health department-approved food carts and eliminating fines from being increased for repeat offenses while selling food.
Eater LA reached out to city councilman Soto-Martinez who emailed the following statement:
“Growing up, my parents were street vendors, so I’m emotionally connected to this issue because I’ve experienced the very real challenges that vendors face just to feed their families. The City should be providing stability to these beloved workers who provide incredible cultural enrichment to Los Angeles. We should not implement steep fines and burdensome permitting requirements, which lead many vendors into uncertainty and debt.”
Update: January 10, 2023, 11:08 a.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Hugo Soto-Martinez.