LA drops price of permit for street vendors by hundreds of dollars

Street vendors in the city of Los Angeles will no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars to obtain a permit after council members Friday passed an ordinance that significantly reduces the cost.

In a 12-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that officially lowers the annual price for a permit from what would have cost $541 to $27.51. This comes after the elected officials rescinded so-called "no street vending zones" in February and took steps to further support vendors.

Council members Traci Park, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Monica Rodriguez were absent during the vote.

"Before you today, we have the final step in what has been a long road to bring street vendors into the formal economy," L.A. City Councilwoman Nithya Raman said prior to the vote. "We've taken major steps to achieve this goal over the past few years by removing barriers to obtaining permits, particularly with the passage of SB 972."

In 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom passed SB 972, which allows street vending across California.

"But the financial costs alone were still enough to prevent vendors from operating legally — and that changes today," Raman said.

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Raman and Councilman Curren Price had previously introduced a motion, which called for a fee study to determine an appropriate and affordable annual permit fee. The city decriminalized sidewalk vending in 2017 and began a process to establish a permitting system.

The fee study noted the city had previously set the permit cost at $291 between 2019-2022, and it remained unchanged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, staff proposed the fee to increase to $541, which elected officials held off on imposing on street vendors.

"The city estimated that there were 50,000 vendors in the city and anticipated issuing 16,000 permits annually," Raman said. "But the reality on the ground was very different."

Only 900 permits were being issued annually, and many street vendors opted to operate without permits.

Raman has since worked with her colleagues Price, Hugo Soto-Martinez, Imelda Padilla and others to ensure street vendors can participate in the economy and obtain permits without facing as many barriers as before.

"This fee system will be more realistic and affordable," Padilla said.

"Today will further reduce barriers for vendors in pursuing economic opportunities, create a pathway for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are making an honest living to provide for themselves and their families. This will also allow us to have conversations to improve public health in the process, safety and well-being for all Angelenos."

On Feb. 6, the City Council amended the city's street vending laws and eliminated seven zones where street vendors were prohibited from operating: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, LA Live/ Arena, Universal Studios/City Walk, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and Exposition Park.

In a similar fashion, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to a pair of ordinances regulating sidewalk food vendors, and also adopted a subsidy program to offset some costs related to its permitting process.