LA street vendors no longer banned from tourist spots

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday rescinded a so-called "no street vending zones" that's been in place since 2018 that prohibited street vendors from selling goods at popular tourist areas.

The council voted unanimously to amend the city's current street vending laws and eliminate seven zones where street vendors were prohibited from operating: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, LA Live/Crypto.com Arena, Universal Studios/City Walk, El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument and Exposition Park.

"I think what we're voting on is going to reflect the personal experiences of those street vendors and how they experience the city of Los Angeles," Councilman Hugo Soto-Martinez said prior to the vote.

The councilman noted the move was very personal to him, as he remembered coming to City Council meetings years ago with his parents who were street vendors and urging city leaders to support them.

"We see you. We value your hard work and what you bring to the city," Soto-Martinez said. "And hopefully, we will continue to work with the folks that are most affected by this as we continue to evolve the ordinance."

While these "blanket bans" will be removed, street vendors will still be required to follow certain safety and health regulations, and could face tickets if they violate the rules.

RELATED: LA County to require street food stands to have health permits, require distance between vendors

According to Valerie Flores, chief assistant city attorney, in the future the City Council could enact vending restrictions in certain areas, but it would require an ordinance. Additionally, there must be specific findings that justify why the restrictions are needed.

"So in general this ordinance will ensure that vending is permitted to the greatest extent possible in the city, and only where health or safety findings can be made will vending be restricted," Flores said.

The ordinance still requires a second vote by the full City Council before it can be adopted. Mayor Karen Bass will also have to approve the ordinance for implementation.

Council members Soto-Martinez, Curren Price, Nithya Raman, John Lee and Council President Paul Krekorian introduced the motion that initiated the process to remove the "no street vending zones" in October 2023.

The motion came in response to an ongoing lawsuit against the city for allegedly violating the rights of street vendors and not complying with state law. Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm, is representing Community Power Collective, East LA Community Corporation and Inclusive Action for the City in their lawsuit against the city.

During public comment, Community Power Collective member Sergio Jimenez said the group supported the ordinance, but emphasized that the lawsuit will continue. A trial date is set for Feb. 15. Vendors are seeking legal resolution for hundreds of citations the city issued to them in the no-vending zones.

"However, we have no assurances, and based on recent history, we have no trust," Jimenez said. "We are also dismayed that the city has offered nothing to repair the deep harms caused by the hundreds of citations -- hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines imposed on low-income immigrant families due to the unlawful no vending zones."

He added that the city continues to issue citations to street vendors.

"Today, we're here to tell you that this ordinance is important and necessary, but also to remind you that the job is not done."

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 972, which makes it easier for vendors to sell food on streets throughout the state. The state law does not specifically define what would constitute health and safety concerns. According to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, the city's Bureau of Street Services will be the lead agency to set regulations for street vending.

In 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act that decriminalized street vending, but the bill required street vendors to have equipment, such as food trucks and catering businesses, rather than a stand or pushcart.

In addition, the City Council approved a motion in December 2023 that aimed to establish a "special vending zone" that would allow vendors to work on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hollywood Bowl.

Tuesday's vote came on the same day that the city council drastically reduced the permit fees required of street vendors. The cost has been $291 per year and was initially set to increase to $541, but the council unanimously voted Tuesday to establish a $27.51 per-year permit fee for the Sidewalk and Park Vending Program.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to give final approval to a pair of ordinances regulating sidewalk food vendors at its meeting Tuesday, including a permit program and approval of a subsidy program to help vendors cover permitting fees.