Where is Sidewalk Vending Criminalized in California?


As we enter our 5th year of advocating and organizing for a comprehensive, equitable permit system for sidewalk vending in Los Angeles, we are often reminded that although progress in policy development is often incremental in nature, unique opportunities for broad-sweeping changes do emerge from time to time. We witnessed one of these unique moments about a year ago, when the obdurate Trump administration threatened cities across the nation with its incessant pursuit of undocumented immigrants. Such potential disruption thrusted Los Angeles policymakers into action and it was in this climate that City Council decriminalized sidewalk vending under one section of LA’s municipal code and promised to hear proposals for a city-wide permit system. We’re still waiting for that hearing, but we have made steady progress in the right direction and expect our time before council in a couple of weeks.

A few weeks ago we were presented with another unique opportunity for serious policy change, but this time at the State level. Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), hoping to further augment California's protections for undocumented individuals, consulted with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign. After meeting with campaign leaders, and learning more about how a large portion of sidewalk vendors are undocumented immigrants, he was convinced that decriminalization of these entrepreneurs needed to be a state-wide priority. Thus emerged the introduction of Senate Bill 946 (SB 946) - The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act. SB 946, if passed, will do three, key things: 1.) Decriminalize sidewalk vending permanently in California and establish an exclusively administrative penalty system for local enforcement; 2.) Create an avenue for cities to adopt local sidewalk vending licensing systems; and 3.) Establish minimum standards for sidewalk vending regulations that are flexible, safe, accessible, and inclusive.

SB 946 is a significant opportunity to protect and uplift some of California’s most disenfranchised entrepreneurs. We’re strongly committed to moving this forward and as we engage in the work required to do so, it will be necessary to better understand SB 946’s potential impacts and benefits. Just as incrementalism is inherent in the policy process, so is evaluation. Therefore, we would like to share with you some initial information related to the impact of SB 946. In this informational sheet, we not only provide more specific details about how SB 946 will work (if passed), but we also assess which of the 30 most populous cities in California will be impacted by SB 946. Our assessment finds that the vast majority of these 30 cities (including Los Angeles) will need to adapt their existing regulatory frameworks to decriminalize sidewalk vending and reduce excessive restrictions which prevent sidewalk vendors from engaging meaningfully in their local economies.

This is just the beginning. In the following weeks we plan to expand on this assessment and create a more detailed picture of how these, and more, cities will be impacted by SB 946. If you want to stay informed about efforts to legalize sidewalk vending in Los Angeles and/or California, please follow the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign on Facebook. There, you can expect to find updates on policy efforts, forthcoming assessments and details pertaining to events in support of sidewalk vending in Los Angeles and throughout California. Lastly, if you want to take action now, please call your district Senator and Assemblymember, and inform them that you support SB 946.