LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Street vending in Los Angeles should be legalized

With the increase in unemployment, there has been a growing lack of job opportunities in the city of Los Angeles, specifically for low-income, undocumented residents. With fewer opportunities to earn an honest living, low-income undocumented residents significantly depend on street vending to provide for their families. Street vending is an integral part of the city’s culture and economy; however, government agencies continue to enforce anti-street vending laws throughout Los Angeles.

Though street vendors can currently purchase a health and business permit, undocumented vendors still run the risk of getting cited, arrested and possibly deported. I strongly believe that a comprehensive and collaborative policy legalizing street vending would benefit the city because vendors significantly contribute taxes to the economy, while street vendors will in turn benefit from being allowed to financially provide for their families. Thus, an implementation of a city-wide comprehensive policy is important not only to legalize street vending and to help end the criminalization of this form of business, but also to allow the city to continue benefiting from this economic development strategy.

The tax revenue being generated from street vending can help create financial security for the city and can help alleviate the unemployment rate. Yvonne Yen Liu, Patrick Burns and Daniel Flaming (2015), in the study of Sidewalk Stimulus from the Economic Roundtable, state that the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services estimates “50,000 street microbusinesses operate in the city annually.” Additionally, “street vending is a $504 million industry in Los Angeles.” As street vendors sell their products, they add demand for services or supplies they purchase from local suppliers, which consequently generates tax revenues for local, state and the federal government. Hence, a policy legalizing street vending in Los Angeles would not only benefit the estimated 50,000 vendors, but also the entire city through an increase in tax revenue.

Small business owners argue that street vending is an unfair business since vendors are not required to pay property taxes. Through a comprehensive policy, the needs of small business owners, vendors and the city can be met. As long as vendors respect small businesses and vice versa, both parties can highly benefit from the legalization of vending on sidewalks.

Undocumented vendors depend on this source of income from selling food and other products on the streets to financially provide for their families. If there continues to be a lack of policy legalizing street vending, innocent individuals will continuously be criminalized and possibly be deported. Families of vendors facing deportation will be separated and children will suffer the consequences mainly.

Throughout my experience in the social work field, I have learned and witnessed that children who grow up without proper nurture from their loved ones will face future negative consequences. These consequences come from a disrupted relationship with their loved ones that will cause children to grow up without proper care and guidance. This lack of care can lead many children to engage in negative habits, such as drug abuse and criminal behavior.

In order to prevent our children from engaging in these negative habits, the necessary action needs to be made. Hence, government officials should officially allow vendors to financially provide for their families rather than separate them. As individuals, we all search for community now as it helps shape who we are as human beings. Therefore, arresting and deporting street vendors will threaten the community we could potentially build if government officials enact a legalization policy of street vending. Furthermore, the city of Los Angeles cannot afford to let the economic development strategy pass us by. Finally, government officials need to act now and allow the city of Los Angeles to benefit from the $504 million industry of street vending and the tax revenue it generates.

Stephanie Oropeza

Masters in Social Work, First-Year Student