Pacoima : 'Legal Vending Zone' Proposal Grows Stale

After organizing themselves and graduating from a culinary training program at Mission College, immigrant street vendors from the San Fernando Valley hoped to obtain city permits that would allow them to legally sell their tamales, helados and other food items.

That was in March. Nine months later, street vending is still illegal and the vendors--many of whom rely on vending as their sole source of income--remain subject to tickets of up to $130 from police.

Officials say that despite their training in sanitary food preparation techniques at Mission, vendors never obtained the support of established merchants along Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima where they had hoped to set up a special vending zone.

"We were taken to the brink of a public hearing before the City Council, and it just never happened," said Penny Young, director of the business and professional center at Mission College. "A promise to them, unfortunately, was broken," Young added.

But city officials say vendors were informed that they needed to garner the support of businesses in the area where they wished to operate. An official from Councilman Richard Alarcon's office, in whose district the vending zone would have been located, said the vendors' application to establish the zone became "inactive" after business leaders, including representatives of the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce, opposed creation of a legal vending zone.

Robert Valdez, sidewalk-vending administrator for the city's Board of Public Works, said Valley vendors may resurrect their application, but noted that they would still have to obtain support from other merchants.

Valdez added that the city's first legalized street vending zone, in MacArthur Park, was approved in early November.

"The MacArthur Park zone will likely be a model for other vendor zones," he said.

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