ELACC Strives to Legalize Street Food Vending in L.A.

Aug. 30 town hall meeting in the MacArthur Park area.

By Ileana Najarro, EGP Staff Writer

The East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) will host an upcoming town hall meeting at the Rampart Police Station, as part of its on-going efforts to legalize street food vending in the City of Los Angeles.

“We at East LA Community Corporation want to see a policy which is easily accessible by street vendors and can be easily implemented by the City,” Isela Gracian, associate director of ELACC told EGP in an email.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: ELACC Intenta Legalizar la Venta Ambulante en Los Ángeles

The details of the policy will be developed using information received at a series of town hall meetings being hosted by ELACC and supported by groups such as the Los Angeles Urban Renewal Network and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). While the group is currently only focusing on licensing vendors selling food, last month during a meeting in Boyle Heights the possibility of licensing other types of vendors was also brought up.

By late September, ELACC hopes to present city officials with a formal document detailing various policy models, such as the green carts in New York City and the street food vending policies of Portland, Oregon.

Elizabeth Blaney, co-director of the non-profit Union de Vecinos (union of neighbors) that has helped street vendors with legal issues in the past, said that while it’s good to look at other models, it’s important to recognize that Los Angeles is a distinct city with its own factors to consider.

While the city does license some street vendors and the County Health Department does regulate street vendors selling food, sidewalk vending and pushcarts are still illegal in the city.

“In our communities, sidewalk vending is a common practice that provides jobs for community members and affordable food to residents,” states the ELACC Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign.

In 1994 the city passed an amendment to create street vendor districts across the city, Gracian said, but ultimately only a few were fully implemented, including one inside MacArthur Park. Yet Gracian noted that even that district “was too complicated.” It was not successful because foot traffic occurred in the perimeter of the park and not within it where the vendors were located, she said.

Though the details are still in the brainstorming stage, Gracian hopes the policy will create an incentive to increase the sale of fresh produce in local communities, and that it will be flexible enough to account for different types of food vendors—such as fruit carts and hot dog stands.

Jorge C. Corralejo, Chairman of the Board for the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles, said he would like to see a policy that is more inclusive, but that he would have to see the final details before offering support.

He told EGP that as ELACC progresses with its town hall meetings and other activities to raise support, they need to be aware and prepared to deal with issues such as competition with brick and mortar businesses, licensing, and health concerns among other things.

“When you’re developing a policy you need to look at other parties and take them into consideration to gain support,” Corralejo said. “There will be opposition.”

Tony De Marco, president of the Whittier Blvd Merchants in unincorporated East Los Angeles said that he is neutral on what policy may be implemented in the city of Los Angeles, but as a property owner in the city he is concerned about street vendors in his area. He advises the city move carefully on the issue.

“Be cautious city of LA, of how you change code due to [the] lobbying efforts of one side,” De Marco warned.

In unincorporated East LA, illegal street vending is a concern because “we don’t have licensing and we don’t have enforcement,” he said. Like Corralejo, he says illegal street vendors are competition to brick and mortar businesses that have more regulations and restrictions due to their licensed status.

Corralejo said having a street vendor sell something a brick and mortar business already sells, and pays more overhead to be able to sell, puts the brick and mortar business at a disadvantage.

But Blaney said, “people have to have a better understanding of what people sell,” and street vendors are often not in competition with brick and mortar restaurants because they don’t sell the same products, like elotes (corn on the cob) or hot dogs.

Gracian said the issue of fees and taxes would be discussed at the town hall meetings.
Dora Hidalgo is a licensed street vendor. She sells clothing and accessories at the Vermont and Santa Monica Metro Station, and says even if the proposed policy includes fees and taxes, vendors should still be able to comply with it.

“I say that in this time when there are no jobs to be found, it would be like paying the taxes at work that everyone else already pays,” Hidalgo said in Spanish.

Gracian said they will make sure brick and mortar businesses are part of the process “because they are crucial to this being successful.”

“We see street vending as part of a successful model to attract clients to the brick and mortar. This is something we even see in malls where they now have carts in the hallways and the concentration of the restaurants in food courts.”

With regards to the health concerns raised by De Marco and Corralejo, Gracian said ELACC is communicating with the County Health Department to ensure a system that will maintain quality across the board.

The on-going discussions regarding legalizing street vendors in Los Angeles comes out of growing economic concerns and cultural factors, according to Corralejo.

Hidalgo adds that the cultural factor plays a role in the rise of street vending and its hot topic status.
“People come to this country with their culture,” Hidalgo said. “In our countries, selling out on the street was never criminal.”

The next town hall meeting will take place on August 30th at 6pm at the Rampart Police Community Room: 1401 W. 6th St.

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August 16, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “ELACC Strives to Legalize Street Food Vending in L.A.”

  1. Edward on August 17th, 2012 6:01 am

    Look at the NY city Green cart program and in Chicago check out Neighbor Capitals produce cart program. In Chicago this year, they worked with the city to pass new ordnance just for produce in mostly ”food deserts” areas. Wish you well in bringing low cost and easily accessible fresh food to under served neighborhoods! @VendorAid

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