Urge the City Council to Legalize Street Vending the Right Way!

LA City Council

LA is the only major city where street vending is outlawed. In our current political climate, immigrant entrepreneurs are in danger and may have their livelihood threatened just for making their living by selling things that people not only want, but that are integral to the cultural fabric of Los Angeles. For more than five years, the Los Angeles Street Vendor Coalition (LASVC) has worked to decriminalize vending and create a fair, smart permitting process for vendors. As a result of these efforts and our dire, national political climate, the LA City Council is now pursuing legalization.

Unfortunately, the Council is considering a policy that will further isolate street vendors, perpetuate conflicts between brick-and-mortar shops and vendors, and give Councilmembers unilateral power to ban vending in their entire district, according to the LA Times.

A bad policy is potentially disastrous. But good policy can work wonders -- bring vendors out of danger, creating vibrant public space, and making our city safer, healthier, and more prosperous.

That's why the City Council ought to follow the recommendations of the LA Street Vending Coalition and implement a policy that will work better and more fairly than what's currently proposed.

There are three main recommendations that we think the Councilmembers should implement so vending is legalized the right way.

1. Don't give one type of business veto or extortion power over another.

We can uplift all small businesses without giving brick-and-mortar businesses the ability to completely deny vendors' access to public sidewalk space.

2. Don’t allow Special Sidewalk Vending Districts to result in unjust exclusion of vendors.

Any prohibition on vending should be strictly limited and based on actual and demonstrable safety concerns, not business discrimination or perceived community animus toward vending.

3. Reasonable regulations for sidewalk space for vending should be adopted over arbitrary mandate of 2 vendors per block.

* The Sidewalk Vending Program should not impose an arbitrary limit of two stationary vendors per block  which ignores the diversity of our built environment and the size of our streets. Instead, there should be reasonable rules on sidewalk placement to ensure safe passage and protect customers from unsafe proximity to vehicles. These rules should be crafted according realities of vending practices and sidewalk accessibility.

* The Program should allow stationary vendors to operate under time limits that are no more restrictive than brick and mortar businesses in the same area.

You can read the full letter from the LA Street Vendors Coalition here.

Sponsored by

To: LA City Council
From: [Your Name]

Dear Honorable Members:

As a residents and voters in LA, we urge you to pass a street vending legalization proposal that promotes justice, safety, and vibrant public space.

We write in support of a comprehensive and inclusive Sidewalk Vending Program (Program) for Los Angeles. This Program should create opportunities for vendors to formalize their business and work without fear of criminalization, while promoting safety and accessibility in our public space. Unfortunately, the current proposal includes several policy elements that, if adopted, could prevent legal vending in wide swaths of the city in such a way that could cripple the entire Program. We urge the Council to consider and adopt the recommendations of the LA Street Vendor Campaign, as outlined in the coalition’s January letter. In particular, we urge the Council to consider the following:

1. Do not give private property owners authority to disallow (veto) vending on the public right-of-way near their property.

We strongly oppose giving private property owners veto power over a vendor’s ability to work on the public sidewalk. Protecting certain favored businesses from perceived competition clearly exceeds the appropriate scope of this Program. As the LA Times Editorial Board notes, giving business owners veto power over what happens on the sidewalk would be “an unprecedented giveaway, allowing a private business to govern a public space. Doing so would invite extortion, as property owners could demand ‘rent’ from vendors for their permission to sell on the sidewalk.”

This policy would also reinforce a hierarchy that values street vending less than other types of small businesses. It would elevate property ownership over micro-entrepreneurship and delegitimize street vending as something not deserving of the same protections and opportunities afforded other businesses. This is not the message our public policy should send.

There is no need to pit one type of small business directly against another. Reasonable rules for vending location will already prevent vendors from obstructing the entrance to a brick and mortar business, and will require vendors to help keep the sidewalks clean. The Council could consider other procedures to resolve conflicts between businesses without discriminatory bans and unjust exclusions.

Giving certain private property owners absolute power to prohibit vending opportunities is a potentially fatal blow to this Program. We urge you to avoid including such a provision.

2. Do not allow Special Sidewalk Vending Districts to result in unjust exclusion of vendors.

Certain individual areas may exhibit unique dynamics that make the standard rules for vending unworkable. In these circumstances, it is appropriate to build in flexibility to adjust rules. But this should not create a backdoor tool to “opt-out” of the City’s program altogether, or impose onerous restrictions based on anti-vending sentiment. Instead, the creation of Special Sidewalk vending Districts should: (A) never result in the complete prohibition of vending in a community; (B) include appropriate size limitations for districts; (C) enable vendors and other stakeholders to initiate districts to expand vending opportunities; and (D) require City Council approval based on health and safety findings.

3. Promote public safety without arbitrary restrictions on opportunity.

The Sidewalk Vending Program should include reasonable rules on where and when vending may occur, in order to ensure accessible public sidewalks and safe business operations. However, the current proposal goes too far, and instead threatens to eliminate vending from wide swaths of the city that could safely accommodate it.

The Sidewalk Vending Program should not impose a limit of two stationary vendors per block face. Such an arbitrary restriction – applied uniformly to the City’s largest and smallest blocks alike - ignores the diversity of our built environment. Instead, the Council should allow more vending on the City’s larger boulevards and should allow vendor applicants to petition for additional locations on blocks where it will not negatively impact public safety.

The Sidewalk Vending Program should include reasonable rules on sidewalk placement to ensure safe passage and protect customers from unsafe proximity to vehicle travel. However, these rules should be thoughtfully crafted according to the realities of vending and pedestrian activity -- not copied directly from an old ordinance regulating news racks (LAMC section 42.00(f)(6)), as currently proposed.

The Sidewalk Vending Program should also relax the hours of operation in non-residential areas. Many vendors work outside the hours of 7:00am to 9:00pm to accommodate other pressures on their schedules, such as childcare and supplemental employment, and to cater to consumer preferences. Stationary vendors operating away from residential neighborhoods should have same limitations on hours of operation as brick and mortar businesses in that area.


We appreciate the Council’s thoughtful consideration of all the important elements of a fair and workable Sidewalk Vending Program. However, we are very concerned with the number of onerous restrictions that are currently proposed. The cumulative effective of imposing a property owner veto, special district “opt-out,” two-per-block cap, and restrictive hours of operation will be a massive eroding of opportunities for vendors to come into compliance. The success of this Program depends on it being accessible to low-income vendors. To achieve that success, we ask the Council to remove these unnecessary barriers.