The Los Angeles City Council moved forward with proposed sidewalk vending rules Wednesday in an effort to adhere with new state legislation that decriminalizes the practice but requires cities that want to control the industry to create a permit or regulatory process.
On a 14-0 vote, the council approved an outline of sidewalk-vending rules, including the potential creation of no-vending zones near top tourist attractions such as Dodger Stadium, the Hollywood Bowl, Staples Center, Los
Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Hollywood Boulevard. The council instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance based on the proposed rules and bring it back to the council for a another vote.
The new state law that takes effect in January only allows vending restrictions based on health, welfare or safety concerns. The council directed city staff to explore ways of keeping its no-vending zones in place based on those concerns, and to switch from a two-vendor-per-block restriction to one based on vendors needing to be located a specified distance from one another -- based on health, welfare and safety concerns.
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. The city had to revisit its April action, however, when the state legislation was signed into law in September.
Councilman Curren Price noted that with the state approving legislation, "a lot of the decisions are out of our hands."
"The state passed SB 946, and we are limited in how we regulate sidewalk vending going forward. Having said that, about 95 percent of what we passed in April is still part of the policy," he said.
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.
The state law allows local jurisdictions to establish either a permit-based vending system or regulatory vending system. According to a report from the city's chief legislative analyst, a permit-based sidewalk vending program is consistent with the council's April action and would allow the city to issue permits to vendors based on location. Under a regulatory system, vendors would be able to choose a vending location on a first-come, first-served basis, but they would be required to follow established rules.
At the request of Councilman Bob Blumenfield, the council put off the decision on whether to create a regulatory system or permit system. The council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance for both systems while it awaits a city staff report outlining the pros and cons of each.
Price said a permit system would take about a year to finalize, but the goal would be to have it in place by Jan. 1, 2020, and "until that time, the vendors will need to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the council."
The LA 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, LA 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."
Under state law and the city's proposed program, the city may prohibit stationary vending in residential areas but not roaming vending.