West Hollywood Has to Accommodate Sidewalk Vendors Under New State Law

A fruit vendor in Los Angeles (Photo: Stu_Spivack/Flickr)

Soon — maybe as soon as this coming weekend — you’ll be able to buy tacos on the sidewalk in West Hollywood. And perhaps a dog or a cat.

The West Hollywood City Council is being asked on Monday to revise the city’s sidewalk vending laws to bring them into compliance with SB 946, a bill that decriminalizes sidewalk vending that was put forward by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and signed into law last November by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“With Senate Bill 946 we can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are – women and seniors, single

parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” Lara said after Brown signed the bill into law. “Governor Brown’s signature validates that thousands of sidewalk vendors are an important part of our economy, whose hard work supports their families and gives California its unique flavor.”

“Last year activists were galvanized when a woman in Rancho Cucamonga was arrested and detained by immigration authorities for selling corn in a city park,” states a memo to the City Council from the city’s Department of Public Works explaining the background of SB 946. “To avoid state complicity in the federal deportation of individuals for infractions and misdemeanors, SB 946 prohibits California cities from criminalizing sidewalk vending violations.

“Rather, state law now sets forth a mandated schedule of administrative fines as the only permissible penalty for vending violations and also requires local authorities to consider a person’s ability to pay when assessing fines.”

The memo notes that “the new law was enacted to promote entrepreneurship and to provide economic development opportunities for immigrant and low-income communities. The Legislature found that sidewalk vending increases access to desired goods (such as culturally significant food and merchandise) and contributes to safe and dynamic public spaces. State lawmakers also sought to take a stand against aggressive federal immigration policies that prioritized the deportation of persons charged with minor offenses, including violation of local street vending ordinances. “

The city will be permitted to regulate to some degree sidewalk vendors – defined as someone who sells food or merchandise from a pushcart, a stand, or even from one’s person on a public sidewalk or another pedestrian path. The relaxed regulations don’t apply to food trucks.

A sidewalk vendor in New York City

According to the Public Works Department memo:

— In general, a city may not restrict sidewalk vending in the public right-of-way or restrict the overall number of vendors permitted to operate within the city unless the restriction is “directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare concerns. For example, a city may restrict vending at a location that could not accommodate both the activity and the minimum pedestrian clearance required by objective state and federal disability access standards.

— The city can bar sidewalk vendors from operating within one block from school grounds when school is open to students. The proposed ordinance also will restrict sidewalk vending during exceptionally busy times in areas with a high concentration of night-life venues, such as along Santa Monica Boulevard between Robertson Boulevard and Palm Avenue, between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

— For reasons of public safety, the proposed ordinance also restricts sidewalk vending within 25 feet of any on-street valet loading zone and prohibits vendors from operating within 200 feet of another sidewalk vendor to avoid congestion and to maintain adequate pedestrian access to the public right-of-way.

— “Perceived community animus or economic competition” cannot be a reason for barring a sidewalk vendor. “The city also cannot require sidewalk vendors to obtain the consent or approval of residents or local businesses before being permitted to operate.”

— The city may require sidewalk vendors to obtain a local license before engaging in the activity. Food vendors also will have to comply with state health and safety and permit requirements.

— There will be a distinction between stationary sidewalk vendors (vendors permitted to operate from a fixed location) and “roaming sidewalk vendors” (vendors who move from location to location, stopping only to complete a transaction).

Stationary vendors can be prohibited from residential zones while roaming vendors may not be prohibited except to meet objective health and safety standards. The city can ban a sidewalk vendor from a public park if it already has granted someone an exclusive concession to sell food or other goods in the park, which the City of West Hollywood has not done.

— The city can prohibit vending within the “immediate vicinity” of a permitted special event, including a certified farmers’ market or swap meet, during the limited duration of the event. A sidewalk vendor can never operate within one block of a farmers market such as the Helen Albert Farmers Market at Plummer Park. The Department of Public Works memo is asking the City Council to declare its revision of sidewalk vending regulations an “urgent measure” to accommodate such vendors during one permitted special event — this coming weekend’s LA Pride events. An urgency ordinance takes effect immediately upon its adoption by four-fifths of the City Council.

— The city will not require someone applying for a vending permit to show a Social Security number, which would limit undocumented residents from making such applications. Instead, the applicant can show a valid California driver’s license or identification number, or an individual taxpayer identification number. The applicant will have to undergo a fingerprint scan and obtain a permit from the L.A. County Public Health Department for food vending.

Consistent with the new state law, permit violations, including sidewalk vending without a permit, will only be punished by an administrative fine, and actual fee assessments will take into consideration a person’s ability to pay the fine says the Public Works Department memo.

Under the state law, a violation of the city’s vending ordinance is punishable only by a fine of $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation, and $500 for each additional violation within one year of the first violation. The city may impose higher fines for vending without a permit: $250 for a first violation, $500 for a second violation, and $1,000 for each additional violation within one year of the first violation. A vendor’s failure to pay an administrative fine cannot be punishable as an infraction or misdemeanor, and no additional fines, fees, or assessments can be levied against the vendor.

SB 946 requires the city take into account the vendor’s ability to pay the fine. If a person meets certain criteria, the city must accept payment of only 20% of the fine and can allow the person to complete community service in lieu of paying a fine.

The City Council will consider the proposal at its meeting on Monday at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica. Free parking is available in the adjacent five-story structure with a ticket validated in the lobby.


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Max
Guest
Max

What great news! Now when I go to buy a pair of mismatched used sneakers and a busted up 1980’s Sony Walkman from a guy selling them off a ratty blanket on the sidewalk, I only have to walk a few more feet in order to buy an under-cooked bacon dog covered in condiments that have turned from sitting out in the summer heat for days on end. After all, everyone knows third world illegal aliens are sticklers for proper food prep practices and good hygiene. And with all of the hepatitis and tuberculosis incubating among the totally out of… Read more »

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

City Council has made it clear that “anything goes” on the sidewalks like bikes, scooters, skateboards by not enforcing the laws. So why is everyone surprised that they would allow this too?

Javier
Guest
Javier

So they can get fines and do not have to pay. Interestingly the push carts are not operated by individuals but by buffet businesses that drop them off at parks or sidewalks. They sell unhealthy foods to kids. I called cops for vendor having hot grill right next to playground. He was back in few days. I stopped going to that playground as I was afraid one of my kids can accidently get burned. I’m sick of making laws to accommodate people who break them. Maybe we should decriminalize DUI.

carleton cronin
Guest

We’re gonna need wider sidewalks.

mike m
Guest
mike m

I have to agree with most of the comments. The vendors should adhere to strict rules and regulations. I hope they aren’t everywhere , taking up sidewalks. I hope they clean up after themselves. This law is ridiculous and to appease one group. What happened to coming here legally and work hard. I’m a Democrat but this is absurd and unnecessary. Time to vote in common sense.

JMF
Guest
JMF

This should be decided on a local level. This state is being run by a bunch that are turning it into a third world country…literally. So sad to see what California has become. Over the last 40 years I’ve seen it go right into the toilet.

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

Third world country…literally?
Are you sure?

Jose
Guest
Jose

Lara, the son of illegal aliens, has worked overtime to turn California into the Third World slum that is most of Mexico. Keep voting Democrat in this state and you are just around the corner from the Third World.
I want to see the same in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Aire and Malibu.

mark
Guest
mark

Thank you Jose for your wise words. We all want a nice place to live and work. There are better options if we really want to be a creative city. Let’s use our creativity to create better jobs and a work environment. When I walk down SMB, it’s depressing. Looks awful. Small progress here and there but so much potential.We need leaders with a vision to make this a great city. One to be proud of. When I walk down SMB, I’m not proud at all. It looks like a dump. And that’s where these vendor carts will go. If… Read more »

mark
Guest
mark

To elaborate, I recall visiting Laguna Beach. The convenience stores were beautiful. The outsides was very high end materials, the inside even had chandeliers. It must be a city ordinance because there were two very pleasing facades that created a theme for the area, or at least a vibe that the city cares about the arts, aesthetics, etc. Granted I’ll complain all day about the quality of ingredients in the products they sell, but that’s not the point. Holding vendors to a high standard is, be it vendor carts, storefronts, etc. SMB needs a makeover or a vision at least.

JMF
Guest
JMF

so true.

Third World WeHo
Guest
Third World WeHo

Lara is now our Insurance Commissioner? Interesting journey towards that end. Nothing feels right about this guy. Slap in the face for all the folks that came here as legal immigrants. You won’t find them selling hot dogs and stuffed animals on our residential streets. What a hair brained idea.! When you lower the bar, you’ll never raise it again. Let’s wait till he hands out insurance waivers to all the poor folks driving to their street vendor jobs. Chaos.

Ham
Guest
Ham

How very “third world” of them.

nate
Guest
nate

The city/state continues to go downhill. Laws continue to get passed that benefit the few, at the expense of the many. No social security number required? Wow. Will these vendors pay taxes on sales – my guess is no!? Will they give back to the community – my guess is no!? Does the CA government care what I think (as a white tax paying man) – my guess is no?!

JMF
Guest
JMF

exactly. so true.

Joshua88
Guest
Joshua88

Benefit the few at the expense of many? Wealthy sidewalk vendors? People collecting the fees, or not?

I imagine if the vendors are successful, it will be because they are providing a service that people want. If not, they would be smart to move to a more lucrative geographic location.

Manny
Guest
Manny

Sacramento is really getting on my last nerve. This is another matter that should be regulated by cities, not the State.

Randy
Guest
Randy

I’ll be sure to wave at you as I ride up on my scooter to purchase a street taco. The state is getting involved because communities like Rancho Cucamonga will deport people for this activity. Quite seriously … is this REALLY a nuisance? Does it really affect our daily lives in a negative way? I see street vendors after last call, outside of bars, on Highland, outside the Hollywood Bowl, and on our major event weekends, such as Halloween and LA Pride. And some selling fruit on residential streets, on a daily basis. Who cares? These people are just trying… Read more »

Jose
Guest
Jose

And the first one to get hepatitis or E-coli. Of course, it is ALL about your needs. We don’t we allow pissing and defecating in the street too!
Some people are used to that kind of life because it is where they are from…we are not, in America.

Cka
Guest
Cka

Well, we do allow pissing and defecating in Los Angeles sadly. Seen it twice right across from the courthouse, a block from Parker Center. Olympic visitors will be impressed….

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

Food safety, crowd safety, and permit issues affect all of us.

JMF
Guest
JMF

Yup!

AKP
Guest
AKP

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David
Guest
David

Yikes!