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Council panels hear proposed sidewalk vending rules

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Several Los Angeles City Council committees held a joint session Oct. 17 to examine proposed sidewalk vending rules in an effort to match them up with a recently signed state bill that decriminalizes sidewalk vending and requires cities that want to control the industry to first create a permit or regulatory process.

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

The council has been working over the last several years to develop a permitting process, and in April directed the city attorney to draft a comprehensive sidewalk vending ordinance.

A report from the chief legislative analyst noted that the city would need to make some changes to its proposed policies in light of the passage of the sidewalk vending bill, which goes into effect on Jan. 1. The state law also prohibits any rule where vendors would need the permission of any nearby brick-and-mortar businesses — something that had been strongly opposed by industry advocates and considered by the City Council before it abandoned the idea in April.

Councilman Curren Price noted that “what we passed in April is in large part compliant with SB 946, and going forward, the controversial pieces of this policy are no longer even an option.”

The proposal approved by the council would include a restriction in most areas of two vendors per block and also create no-vending zones near top tourist attractions such as Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, Staples Center, the Memorial Coliseum and Hollywood Boulevard.

The state law only allows for restrictions based on health, welfare or safety concerns, and the committees directed city staff to explore ways to keep the no-vending zones in place based on those concerns, and to transition from a per-block restriction to one based on vendors needing to be a certain number of feet away from one another based on health, welfare and safety concerns.

The state law allows local jurisdictions to establish either a permit-based vending system or regulatory vending system. According to the report presented to the council committees, a permit-based sidewalk vending program is consistent with the council’s action of April and would allow the city to issue permits based on location.

Under a regulatory system, vendors would be able to choose a vending location on a first-come, first-served basis and could be required to follow established rules.

The L.A. Street Vendor Campaign has been advocating for a permit program, saying it 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, the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign 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.”

Under state law and the city’s proposed program, the city may prohibit stationary vending in residential areas but not roaming vending.

The Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, Economic Development Committee and the Arts, Entertainment, Parks and River Committee all approved the report and its recommendations, along with some proposed changes, including the exploration of restricting vending based on distance.