With Deadline Looming, L.A. City Council Finalizing Sidewalk Vending Rules

new sidewalk vending rules coming

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Three City Council committees are expected to make a recommendation today as to what type of regulatory system Los Angeles should use for sidewalk vending as its leaders work to pass new rules before a state law takes effect at the beginning of the year.

Although the practice is widespread, sidewalk vending is illegal in Los Angeles, and the City Council had appeared close to finalizing a system before Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 946 in September, which took much of the decision-making out of cities' hands.

The new state law only allows vending restrictions based on health, welfare or safety concerns, and also prevents cities from enforcing vending laws if they to not have a local system in place that conforms to the state law.

At the request of Councilman Bob Blumenfield, the council put off the decision at a meeting in October on whether to create a regulatory system or permit system and directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance for both while it awaited a city staff report outlining the pros and cons of each. That report from the Bureau of Street Services has now been completed and actually recommends a hybrid of the two systems.

Three committees -- the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, the Economic Development Committee and the Arts, Entertainment, Parks and River Committee -- are meeting at 1 p.m. to examine the two ordinances and the report ahead of a vote on the issue by the full City Council on Wednesday.

The L.A. Street Vendor Campaign has been advocating for a permit program, which would allow vendors the right to vend on a certain block or in a certain zone, over a regulatory system which could restrict how many vendors are allowed in a certain area but would not grant site-specific permission to a vendor. The group says permits would provide an organized system that would protect vendors from extortion, reduce potential conflict among vendors and hold them accountable for their vending locations.

In a letter addressed to the City Council, L.A. Street Vendor Campaign organizers said “many vendors are fearful that without a mechanism to allocate certain prime locations to a single permit-holder, there may be greater risk of conflict between vendors, extortion, intentional obstruction of public space to exclude vendors and unsafe over-concentration.”

Even if the City Council opts for a permit system, it still needs to be developed and would not become active until Jan. 1, 2020, leaving the city to operate on a regulatory system until then.

The council in October directed city staff to explore ways of creating no-vending zones based health, welfare or safety concerns in places including Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, Staples Center, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Hollywood Boulevard.

The Bureau of Street Services report recommends a hybrid approach in which most of the city would operate under a regulatory system without site- specific vending permits, while in specific zones, a location based permit would be required. These zones would likely be areas such as downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, where vendors currently compete for the spaces with the most economic potential, the report says.

The state law also prohibits any rule requiring vendors to obtain the permission of nearby brick and mortar businesses -- something that had been strongly opposed by industry advocates. The City Council considered such a restriction, but abandoned the idea in April, when it originally instructed the city attorney to draft a vending ordinance.

Los Angeles is believed to be the only major city in America that outlaws all sidewalk vending, although the city decriminalized the practice last year in favor of issuing citations while the council develops a permitting process.

Photo: Getty Images

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