Los Angeles is in the midst of a debate about what to do with the city’s large population of sidewalk vendors. It’s a issue that touches on such issues as entrepreneurship, business fairness, and how best to use public space in the city.
There are at between 10,000 and 50,000 sidewalk vendors in Los Angeles, with many of them selling food. The vendors, who are often immigrants, go into the trade because of its relatively low startup costs. Some vendors will stick to a particular neighborhood or street while others will travel from place to place in the city. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Although sidewalk vendors are a common sight in Los Angeles, such vending is currently illegal in the city. Vendors are subject to fines and can get their carts and equipment confiscated by authorities. Many play a cat-and-mouse game with police and city inspectors. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Vendors have organized in recent years to fight for the legalization of their businesses in Los Angeles. In recent weeks, the city has held community forums, such s this one at City Hall, to receive public input about possible the pros and cons of vendor legalization in L.A. Recommendations will go to the City Council. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Many business owners, such as Brandi Lozano, who owns a café in downtown Los Angeles, are opposed to the presence of street vendors near their establishments. They say the vendors aren’t subject to the same kind of expenses, such as business licenses, that owners of restaurants and stores have to pay. “I would like to see them invest in bricks and mortar and be my neighbor,” says Lozano. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
Rudy Espinosa, the executive director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, advocates for the legalization of street vending in Los Angeles, arguing that the city should encourage their entrepreneurial spirit. “These are people who are saying I am not going to take a handout, I am going to try to create something,” says Espinosa. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)
The debate over sidewalk vending reflects a larger conversation about what kind of city Los Angeles should be in the 21st Century and how to use civic space in the city so that it benefits all residents. (Photo: Saul Gonzalez)