The City Council voted Tuesday to create an ordinance to decriminalize street vending, bringing Los Angeles closer to no longer being the only major American city that prohibits it.
The proposal, which was put forward by council members Joe Buscaino and Curren Price, replaces criminal penalties with a permit system enforced through fines and property confiscation.
The proposal passed by a vote of 11-2, however, it is not effective immediately. It will go to a vote again in a week or two, so until then street vending remains illegal.
The vote authorizes the city attorney to craft an ordinance, but there will likely be more debate and possible changes to the ordinance before it comes back to the council for final approval.
The general idea for an ordinance decriminalizing street vending has the support of the Coalition to Save Small Business and the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign, but there has been significant opposition to key parts of the proposal as it stands, including the requirement that vendors get permission from existing brick and mortar businesses on the block and restricting the number of vendors in many areas to two per block.
During a public hearing on the proposal at the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee on Dec. 12, Buscaino told the crowd that what was being advanced to the full council is a "framework" for a policy, and that if the council voted to direct staff to craft an ordinance, it would come back to the committee for a "full dissection" before going to back to the council again.
"Ladies and gentleman, we are here today because the status quo is not working as it relates to sidewalk vending,'' Buscaino said at the meeting. "Los Angeles is the only major city that prohibits vending of every type, 24 hours a day, throughout the entire city on approximately 11,000 miles of sidewalks, and it is no surprise that is clearly is not working."
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The proposal also notes President Donald Trump's stated goal of deporting immigrants with criminal records who are in the country illegally, and says, "Continuing to impose criminal misdemeanor penalties for vending disproportionately affects, and unfairly punishes, undocumented immigrants, and could potentially put them at risk for deportation."