Los Angeles, USA Decriminalizes Street Vendors

An example of an inclusionary city is from the global North: the city of Los Angeles in the USA.

Street vending is big business in Los Angeles: an estimated 500,000 vendors generate over USD 500 million in revenue each year (Economic Roundtable, cited in Molina 2018). Three-quarters of the vendors sell merchandize (e.g. clothing and cell phone accessories) while one-quarter sell street foods of various kinds (Ibid.).

Until 2017, street vendors were routinely charged and often convicted with misdemeanors. In February 2017, after a decade of struggles by and debates with the street vendors, the Los Angeles City Council decided to decriminalize street vending, largely in response to the Trump administration's stance on illegal immigration, which put many immigrant street vendors at risk of deportation. Since that decision, vendors who are apprehended have been fined with tickets, ranging from $50 to $1,000, without facing any criminal charges.

On November 28, 2018, the City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance which legalizes sidewalk vending.

As José Huizar, an activist councilman who helped lead the legalization process, told the L. A. Weekly: "We have to acknowledge that street vending is already a part of Los Angeles' culture and, for thousands of mostly immigrant families, their only source of income."

On another occasion, Huizar said, "Today, given the background of a Trump presidency and assuming he's going to go after immigrants, there is a renewed energy to move forward and decriminalize vending for one, and adopt a legal framework second." (Portnoy 2017:1).

State-wide Law to Protect Vendors

Meanwhile in September 2018, the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, had introduced a state-wide law,the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, that bans criminal penalties for sidewalk vending and encourages cities to establish permit programs for vendors (Molina 2018).

It remains to be seen whether other cities in California will follow the example of Los Angeles and the mandate of the state law; and whether other jurisdictions in the USA will follow the examples set there.

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