What to know about LA’s proposed new rules for street vendors

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The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to decriminalize sidewalk vending, amid concerns that undocumented vendors could be targeted in escalated deportation efforts under President Trump.

Though sellers of fruit, clothing, tacos, and a wide array of other items are a common sight on LA’s streets and sidewalks, street vending is effectively illegal under the city’s municipal code. Now, however, the council has asked the city attorney to draft a new ordinance that would remove criminal sanctions and establish a permitting system for vendors.

Here are a few things to know about the council’s proposed new rules:

1. They’re a work in progress

The council hasn’t quite made up its mind on what the permitting process will look like. So far, the city attorney has been asked to include provisions limiting the number of vendors to two per block and to restrict vending to a small number of carts in residential areas.

Additionally, the council has asked city staff to come up with strategies on how to enforce the permitting system, how much to charge for permits, whether to create an electronic permitting database, and a host of other details that will shape the policy.

2. Vendors will no longer face criminal charges

The permitting system will take a while to be implemented, and vendors may receive fines in the meantime—but not misdemeanor charges.

3. The council also wants to include an amnesty program

Proposed by Councilmember David Ryu, an amendment to the measure asks the city attorney to wipe previous misdemeanor charges from the records of vendors cited by the city in the past. Ryu linked the proposal directly to Trump’s policies, arguing the president could “expand the types of crimes targeted for deportation” to include non-violent misdemeanors like sidewalk vending.

4. Different areas could have different policies

A component of the vending policy pushed for by neighborhood groups and business organizations is the creation of vending districts with their own regulations on sidewalk sales. The districts could be created by the council or by petition, though it’s not clear yet who would establish the rules specific to those zones.

5. The permitting program could include incentives for selling healthy food

Local leaders have long sought ways to address the “food deserts” of Los Angeles—areas with limited access to healthy foods and fresh produce. One option the council is now considering is enticing sidewalk vendors to provide some of those options by reducing permitting fees for vendors selling healthy snacks and allowing sales near schools.

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