anyone who resides in los angeles is familiar with the incredible variety of food and non-edible products available through street vending. an essential part of many communities across la, street vending is a lifesaver in times of desperate hunger, a means to foster community bonding and a symbol of what cultural authenticity actually is.
street vending is also, unfortunately, the inevitable path for many who find themselves unable to get jobs in the “legal” food industry; this may be for legal/citizenship issues, or because they’re too old, or disabled; regardless, it’s the way many in the city make their living. of course, predictably, street vending is more common in non-white and poorer communities like south central, compton, long beach etc. while food trucks owned by upper-middle class white residents grow in numbers and continue to market various faux-authentic, expensive, gourmet food options, street vending is still essentially illegal in los angeles. vendors have been fined, arrested and recently a street vendor was murdered as a result of street violence.
the rights and freedoms of street vendors have been consistently ignored by the los angeles city council, whose only attempt to provide some way out to these local businessmen is by half-heartedly making proposals for conceptual frameworks, and only making it more confusing and difficult for street vendors to get the right paperwork needed to run their businesses (many of them speak spanish as a first language). on june 25, the fourth community hearing as part of a series of meetings with LA city council representatives took place at the Watts Labor Community Action Committee on S. Central. the city council presented the work they’ve done regarding street vending, followed by one minute comments given by various members of the south la community and beyond. the message from all of these people- professors, street vendors, activists, residents- was abundantly clear: decriminalize street vending, and avoid making any kind of vague rules such as “vending districts”: with the proper paperwork filed, let these people do their business and provide to the community the skill set they already have, instead of forcing them out of the job market.
as of today, street vending contributes approximately $500 million to the LA economy. people were impassioned, furious and dedicated about the absurdity of making humble street businesses illegal. some, on the other hand, were distanced from the issue and unable to say much that was productive (council representatives) and some were against street vending in and of itself. listen in for digital narratives of the important and saddening state of street vending in los angeles, and follow the LA Street Vendor Campaign to sign a petition and keep in touch with this issue. let’s legalize street vending!