Los Angeles Street Vendors Find Support From City Council

Two Los Angeles City Council members said today they want to legalize the sale of food and wares on Los Angeles sidewalks.

Vendors pushing carts selling hot dogs, tacos and other food items are a common sight throughout the city, but the activity is technically illegal, with many getting cited and sometimes arrested.

"Los Angeles has a world-class street food culture, but we sometimes likes to pretend it doesn't exist," Councilman Jose Huizar said, noting that some streetside edible offerings have even attracted the attention of food critics.

Huizar took part in a City Hall rally organized with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, a coalition of groups advocating the legalization of street vending of food and other merchandise.

A motion introduced today by Huizar and fellow Councilman Curren Price would direct city officials to report back in 90 days on a system to allow vendors that sell food and non-food merchandise to do so legally.

The motion does not address food trucks, which are regulated by the county, said Huizar spokesman Rick Coca.

The motion was referred to the City Council's Economic Development and the Public Works and Gang Reduction committees.

Street vending has a strong presence not only in his South Los Angeles district, but also citywide, and is a "primary source of income for many people," Price said.

Legalizing street vending would be "good for micro-enterprises and for the local economy," and would also "ensure that the goods meet public health and safety standards," he said.

The status of street vendors has been much-debated at the county level, with operators of brick-and-mortar businesses contending that street vendors pose safety and health hazards. Street vendors also have an unfair advantage because they do not have to deal with the expense of paying rent for storefronts, the businesses say.

Huizar said the legalization of street vending in other major cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago demonstrate street vendors can co- exist with brick-and-mortar businesses.

Some of the regulations being considered include creating a buffer between vendors and storefronts, he said, while some businesses may find they want to supplement their own operation by incorporating street vending.

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