Tensions are on the rise after the City of Fontana adopted an ordinance to crackdown on unlicensed street vendors and some critics of the new law claim that it targets the Latino community.
Supporters of the ordinance say that many local businesses are hurting because they can’t compete street vendor prices, though at Tuesday’s city council meeting, not everyone agreed.
“I’ve been here 30-plus years and how dare you put an ordinance on street vendors,” one man said at the Tuesday meeting. “They are not criminals.
Fontana residents, as well as activists for the vendors, continued to speak out against the ordinance. Many even addressed Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren directly, even showing up to her home, after the city unanimously voted to approve the ordinance.
The new law allocates some $600,000 toward contracting a company called Four Leaf to assist the city’s code enforcement.
“A lot of that technical assistance could’ve been done with that $600,000 that was approved. Instead, the city is beefing up their code enforcement operation,” one activist told KTLA’s Shelby Nelson.
Officers will be going out six days a week. If they approach a new vendor, the city said they’ll provide education and give them 30 minutes to pack up. If officers confront repeat offenders, the vendors equipment could be confiscated for up to 60 days.
Bacilli Hernandez told KTLA that he’s been selling his tamales on the street for about four months to support his family. Sometimes it’s still not enough to get by, he said and added that the option of getting a proper permit is out of reach because of how expensive it is.
Others, however, say allowing illegal street vendors harms local businesses that go through the proper channels to operate.
“We have heard story after story of our restaurant owners on the verge of shutting down and laying off their employees that live in the city because they are unable to compete with the price points of street vendors,” Amanda Morales, with the Fontana Chamber of Commerce, said at the city council meeting.
KTLA tried reaching out to local businesses hurt by street vendors but were told that many of them are afraid to speak out, fearing retaliation.
“We can no longer attract businesses if the city is losing businesses,” Mayor Warren said.
The mayor added that the city has been providing incentives for street vendors to sell food lawfully but that no one has utilized that option. She believes illegal street vending gives vendors an unfair advantage over Fontana business owners.
“Just like that guy who has to pay rent every day and pay employees, like the state has them set up to pay, you have to be on an even level,” she said.
As for accusations that the ordinance targets the Latino community, Mayor Warren said that the businesses the city is trying to defend are also Latin owned.