Street vending is a core part of the culture of many of the world’s major cities. But, perhaps, none are as deeply connected to it as Los Angeles, where some estimate there are more than 10,000 street vendors operating in the city.
With the looming threats of a Trump administration, Los Angeles lawmakers are doing what they can to decriminalize the technically illegal industry to prevent it from leading to a surge in deportations among undocumented citizens.
The Los Angeles Times reports that City Hall has been struggling to come up with a plan to legalize street vending, but felt the pressure to do so following the president’s first days in office and anti-immigration agenda. On Tuesday, City Council members voted to draft a law to decriminalize sidewalk vending.
“It took something horrible at the national level for them to see the urgency that we’ve been seeing for a long time,” said Mike Dennis, who sits on the steering committee of the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign.
At this point in the planning, there are still a lot of pieces that need to come together for a proposed plan to be presented. One of the more popular ideas appears to be that a limited number of permits will be made available for venders to use with a set cap on how many can be present in which areas.
Between October 2015 and October 2016, city prosecutors filed more than two dozen misdemeanor cases against street vendors, according to the city attorney’s office. Charges like these could put undocumented citizens in jeopardy of being deported.
While a law won’t be proposed or go into effect for some time, anyone who happens to be arrested for street vending in the mean time likely won’t be convicted of any charges.
Local activists have expressed concerns that allowing neighborhoods to restrict or outright deny permits to street vendors will have a negative effect on a majority of them. If the numbers estimating that there are more than 10,000 of them are correct, it’s doubtful that most of them will be given permits to legally continue their business.
However, this step is in the right direction as a city looks to protect its citizens from unfair prosecution.
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