Should Street Vending Be Legalized?

Legalizing street vending is a very controversial issue and a complicated one. There are an estimated 50,000 street vendors in the City of LA. Of those, some 10,000 sell food. On one side of the debate there are business people and others who don't like the idea of widespread street vending in the city. On the other side are vendors who say they just want to make a living.

One such vendor is Guadalupe Flores. He's been in the U.S. for two months. He came here from Mexico. He works with other streets vendors at various cart locations making about $200 a day selling fruit. That's enough to cover an apartment and whatever he needs for his wife, himself and his two kids.

He knows what he's doing is illegal. In Spanish he says he would like it to be legal, but doesn't think there's a chance of that happening.

In another part of the San Fernando Valley a second floor assembly room at Van Nuys City Hall is three-quarters filled with both sides in the debate. Mostly, those who want legalization. Valley resident Kevin Taylor says, "I'm in strong support of legalizing sidewalk vending in the City of Los Angeles."

Like Guadalupe Flores a number of vendors came to this second in a series of public hearings to discuss a plan that could potentially legalize and regulate street vending. Regulations might include permits, health restrictions and rules for enforcement. City speakers said if there is such a plan street vending will change and won't be anything like it is now. Food equipment and preparation would be regulated. There would be health permits. The Legislative Analyst leading the meeting told this reporter that there is even a thought of instituting an A-B-C rating on carts just like there is for restaurants.

Vendor after vendor walked up the the podium to say they wanted to sell legally. Some saying they were tired of being cited by police and harassed by public health officials and others.

Sherman Oaks resident Jay Weitzler, who is opposed to legalizing street vending said, "What's viewed as harassment to some people is law enforcement to other people."

Two more public meetings are planned to take community input. They next will be in Downtown Los Angeles next week. The last will be in South Central LA, but there is no sense of when a plan might be formulated that could be presented to the LA City Council.

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