Los Angeles street vendors call on mayor for legalization process

By Katherine Davis-Young

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles street vendors who sell food, trinkets, toys and other small items in parks and along sidewalks rallied outside City Hall on Thursday to demand a process for making their work legal.

About 40 vendors called for direct meetings with Mayor Eric Garcetti about legalizing street vending - a major source of income for some 50,000 people, many of them unauthorized immigrants in a city that has increasingly sought to show support for migrants.

The protesters also expressed frustration with Garcetti for signing an ordinance that bans unlicensed vending in city parks.

“It feels like a slap in the face. I feel like he’s betrayed us,” said Mariposa Gonzalez, 30, whose family has sold fruit from a cart for two generations.

The ordinance, which passed the Los Angeles City Council by a vote of 12-3 in July, restricts commercial activities in parks, including selling food or hosting fitness classes.

Even as the park ban is set to take effect, the City Council has been hosting discussions about creating a legalization process for vending on streets and sidewalks.

Gonzalez and other vendors said their food carts are their only livelihood, and because their work is illegal, they often face fines or confiscation of goods and equipment.

Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of the L.A. department of Recreation and Parks, said small food carts were not the major focus of the park ban.

“We have a lot of very serious vending issues in these parks that have nothing to do with pushing carts," he said. "Things that can cause injury or be dangerous."

Regan and other city officials met with the demonstrators on Thursday, and Garcetti issued a statement saying he plans to sit down with vendors to discuss a permitting process for their work.

"I remain committed to finding a workable policy for the City of Los Angeles that protects the safety of our residents, vendors and businesses," he said.

The restrictions on vending in parks will take effect Sept. 27. Garcetti plans to meet with vendors and activists on Oct. 6, he said.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere)