Former foes in the long and often culturally divisive fight over street vending in Los Angeles on Wednesday unveiled a compromise plan to legalize pushcart sales in special zones.
The compromise may provide impetus for an ordinance to legalize street vending, an activity undertaken by many immigrants in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Announcement of the compromise came only moments before a Los Angeles City Council committee reviewed a proposed measure to legalize street vending that was approved in concept by the City Council in January, 1992.
Under both the 1992 plan and the new compromise, the city would establish zones where street sales would be legal for vendors who agree to buy a specially designed cart and abide by local health and safety regulations for food sales.
Although Councilman Richard Alarcon, chairman of the council’s Public Works Committee, expressed qualms about a street-vending ordinance, he said he hopes to forward a measure to the council by November.
Alarcon’s committee took no action on the proposed ordinance or compromise Wednesday but agreed to meet Oct. 13 to make a recommendation to the council.
Advocates of legalization say justice would be served if the city legitimizes the hard-working, bootstrap street vendors. They also say legalization will encourage the vendors to abide by local health and safety regulations.
Opponents have groused that the vendors contribute to the city’s blight and constitute unfair competition to other businesses.
The compromise plan was announced by representatives of the Central City Assn. and the Street Vendors Assn., groups that have clashed over legalizing vending for years. Under the compromise, eight vending zones would be created. Under the proposed ordinance, there would be four.
Attorney Madeline Janis-Aparicio, representing the vendors, called the compromise a promising alternative to having business groups and the vendors “fighting it out on the council floor.”
Carol Schatz , vice president of the Central City Assn., said a key feature of the compromise was language that would give existing businesses a role in defining the size of the vending districts and the number of vendors permitted in each one. Under the compromise, businesses owners would sit on advisory panels that would report their recommendations to the city’s Board of Public Works, a five-member body appointed by the mayor. The board would make the final decision on whether to create a vending district.
Schatz said the compromise also was backed by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Assn. and business leaders from Olvera Street.
Among those testifying in support of the agreement at Wednesday’s hearing was an aide to Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles). The aide, Marco Antonio Firebaugh, said Polanco wanted to warn the committee not to allow a “decidedly anti-immigrant mood” to delay or thwart the effort to legalize street vending.
Also backing legalization was prominent Latino grocer Joe Sanchez. “It’s a moral issue with me,” he told the committee. “My father was a food vendor.”
Alarcon agreed that vending should be legalized, but said he remains undecided on how to do it. Elected in June to represent an East San Fernando Valley district that is 70% Latino, Alarcon is trying to weigh the interests of the mostly Latino vendors with those of homeowners and business.
Among other things, Alarcon wants to study whether the $2,400 cost of starting up a vending business under the proposed law would be too expensive. The costs would involve the purchase of carts and licensing fees.
Street vending in Los Angeles is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.