Legalize Los Angeles Street Vending

Los Angeles Street Vendors have increased since 2007 when the economy went downhill. The economy continues to lull particularly in California. There are roughly 10,000 street vendors nationwide, many of whom are single mothers, veterans, and unemployed professionals, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “‘Now they are hawking clothing, food, knickknacks and more,’ said Janet Favela, an organizer with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign,” according to the Times.

Due to high unemployment rates and low wages, many Angelenos are turning to street vending as a means to supplement their income and make ends meet.  Don’t think that they are relaxing on the weekends either; no, they are out on the streets hawking their wares under the hot Los Angeles sun so they can put food on the table.  Street vending has even extended to millennials, as there has been an increase in vendors between the ages of 20 and 30, according to the Times.

Not only has there been an increase in street vendors, but there has been an increase in their customers as well. A large percentage of the vendors customers are those who are also struggling financially. According to the Times, one vendor testified that she has had an increase in employed customers, but she gives price breaks to those who are struggling financially. This is a win-win situation. The vendors can support themselves, while struggling financially, as well as help others who are struggling financially, while still making a profit.

The problem with the increase in Los Angeles street vendors is that street vending is illegal in LA, unlike San Francisco and New York. “From July 2013 — the start of the city’s fiscal year — to March 2014, 286 citations were given out, each of which could result in up to $1,000 in fines and even jail time. That’s more than the entirety of the previous fiscal year, when 271 citations were issued,” according to the Times. These fines only further burden families which are already struggling financially, and if they are fortunate enough to have job, jail time will only force them to take time away from that job, which means less money in the bank. Not only that, but having such a thing on their record will only make it harder for them to get a job in the future, & possibly prolong their state of unemployment and financial difficulty.

“Officials are debating whether to legalize street vendors. City Council members Jose Huizar and Curren Price are pushing legislation to legitimize the so-called micro-businesses. The city’s chief administrative officer is studying potential costs of an enforcement system — data that the Economic Development Committee will eventually consider in drawing up a plan,” according to the Times. The current illegal status of Los Angeles street vendors not only burdens families and individuals who are already struggling, but it kills the entrepreneurial spirit.

That is not to say that there will not be problems with legalizing street vending, but these problems are not only solvable, but worth finding solutions to for the benefits that street vending will bring to struggling families and individuals, and to the economy of Los Angeles at large. One problem with legalizing street vending is highlighted in a recent report from Breitbart which references the LA Times piece: “Notably, the Times makes no mention of the recent report that one out of four immigrants, (1.1 million out of 4.4 million), in Los Angeles are here illegally and may gravitate to this kind of work, given that it is unregulated and requires few skills such as speaking English.” While this is certainly a major problem that should not be dismissed, illegal immigrants should be dealt with on their own merits, and we should not prolong the suffering of LA families and individuals, and the economy as a whole, due to these illegal immigrants.

Other problems, but less controversial, and less significant are outlined in the LA Times “Critics complain that areas flush with street vendors face steeper trash pick-up costs, blocked sidewalks and a tax revenue shortfall. Others worry that implementing a system to regulate peddlers will be even more expensive.”

One of the major benefits of street vending is that for many it is just the launching pad for bigger entrepreneurial dreams. One vendor told of her dreams:  “she’d like to start running a food truck or take over a Subway franchise in the next few years,” as reported by the LA Times. Street vending allows these future entrepreneurs to get their feet wet, make mistakes and gain experience before launch into something bigger.

While there are problems with legalizing street vending, I believe they are solvable, and worth overcoming, because the current illegal status of LA street vending, not only hurts already struggling families and individuals, it also hurts the economy in general and kills the entrepreneurial spirit. Legalizing LA street vending could change of all of that, encouraging entrepreneurship and benefiting the LA economy and large, as well as struggling families and individuals.

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