Over the past few years, there has been an increase in violence against street vendors. Many of these attacks are based off of racism, as most street vendors are people of color. In an 11-4 decision, the Los Angeles City Council has officially approved the legalization of street food within city limits. This decision will hopefully deter violent attacks on street vendors and harassment from law enforcement, which disproportionately affect immigrants and people of color.
While there are still framework discussions that need to take place, this is a great step towards a fair system for the hardworking street vendors of Los Angeles. Among the things needed to be discussed is creating a compromise between street vendors and the surrounding brick and mortar businesses. A former plan involved brick and mortar businesses taking precedence over street vendors by being able to say no to street vendors within their immediate vicinity, but this did not come without opposition. This would not be fair to the hard workers that are out in the streets everyday.
Many street vendors are immigrants and low-income workers. The legalization of street vending will be able to provide jobs for more people without risking fines, arrest, or even their citizenship. Street vending is one of the few jobs that immigrants can take up to support their families. Newspaper accounts date street vending in Los Angeles, specifically from Mexicans, back to the 1870s. Many efforts were made to crack down on street vendors, but they failed as Mexican street food became too popular to vanish completely. Street food is a part of the Los Angeles culture, and it just would not be complete without them.
But this recent legalization of street food has raised questions as to whether white people will now try to bank in this business. There has been a history of Latinx food getting gentrified by white-owned businesses and resold for much higher than it was originally sold for. The main issue with this is that already struggling immigrants and low income workers may be pushed out by economically privileged white people that will now try to dominate in street vending. Immigrants and low income workers have worked so hard for over a decade to make a living for their families and to make their line of work legal, and now this could be threatened in a different way.
This is still a win for street vendors. They can now sell their food safely and without threat. All of the details of the legalization of street vending are still a bit left in the dark, but the Los Angeles City Council has less than 60 days to create a draft ordinance including these details. In the meantime we can help by supporting our local street vendors.