Platform : ‘Street Vendor Law Erodes Quality of Life’

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<i> Compiled for The Times by Kevin Baxter</i>

Street vendors in Los Angeles won a major victory in January when the City Council voted to legalize the sidewalk entrepreneurs in designated districts. But the victory has proven bittersweet. Six months after the council vote, not one district has been established and no permits have been issued. In the meantime, vendors claim police are cracking down on them. The issue came to a head last Tuesday with a protest in front of LAPD headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles.


Director, Police Protective League

This is just another failed attempt by the Los Angeles City Council to appease an individual group in the community. This City Council is trying to appease all these groups by permitting an erosion in our quality of life. I compare this to what the city did with amnesty. All they’re doing is permitting something that’s illegal. Why don’t they make driving through a red light legal? Why don’t we just become like Nevada and make prostitution legal and make gambling legal?

They keep saddling the police with more and more regulations to enforce. Some parts of this city are like a third-world country. That’s what offends me. The quality of life is eroding at a rapid pace.



Administrator, Street Vendors Assn.

The trouble with the law that it is inherently bureaucratic. You have to comply with 10 different things to be able to petition for a license. Then there are five different phases to go through to get a district approved.

The police have targeted the street-vendor law to make sure it does not work. They are undermining the law in a way that does not permit these people to go and work. They have to be able to go out and work. They have to be able to out and organize in a peaceful environment. We’ve gone through a lot of different things to make the LAPD aware that a law has been passed. And there has to be a window period.

The street vendors are the most organized sector of the new entrepreneurial class. They have an office. They have some money. So they are a sore point among many on the political right.

What you have right here with the street vendors is an immigrant-bashing campaign. And someone in the police department has made that decision. What we are looking for is for the Police Commission to impose discretion. What we’re asking Chief (Willie) Williams to do is come down to reality. He’s saying that the street vendor is not a target. But when you get down to the level of captain and the people in the street, it’s very different.


Los Angeles City Council member

The enforcement issue is a little complicated. The police are only enforcing the ordinance as it’s written. I don’t think there’s any racism, but they’re getting complaints from areas that are highly Latino and the particular area they are talking about is highly concentrated with street vending.

I was in favor of the idea of an ordinance to legalize street vending, but I disagree with how complicated they made it. But right now that’s all we have, so we have to work with it. I’m working now with a group called PASEO, which stands for Pedestrian Area for Shopping and Economic Opportunity. That group is changing the perception of street vending in their old area. But they can’t do that unless the area has been designated as a district for street vending.


It’s hard to tell how you’re going to create a district in an area that doesn’t want one. We’re going to create a district where it can be created by changing the image of street vending, by working with the businesses and working with the residents and showing the people how it can complement their businesses. We want to set up one district that works and use that as a model.


Street vendor

Our children are asking us for food and they need clothes and they have to study. We have bills to pay. We have to look for a way to survive. We have to work. And we’re trying to work but the police won’t leave us alone.

We don’t want the government to give us anything. We want to contribute to the city. We want to pay taxes. We want to work within the law. But they won’t give us the chance. They have many officers working against us, the street vendors. They harass us, they take our things, they arrest us and give us tickets, expensive tickets.

There’s nothing wrong with the (street vendor) law, it’s that they are making another law on their own independently. They say the police are just enforcing the law. But it’s a lie.

It’s complete racism. Pure racism. They aren’t giving us the opportunity to support ourselves like we want. We want to demonstrate to them that we can work and we can be living well in accord with the laws as the law says. But they won’t give us the opportunity.