Gov. Brown Signs Bill Legalizing Street Vending in California

Benjamin Ramirez, left, with his father, Alex Ramirez, right, serving food from their cart during a rally in Hollywood. (Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed a bill to decriminalize selling food and other goods on sidewalks and in parks in California.

The legislation, introduced in January by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, prohibits criminal penalties for sidewalk vending. Vendors will also be able to clear pending citations and be retroactively relieved of previous convictions.

Under the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, cities will be able to establish a permit program for sidewalk vending, according to a news release from Lara’s office. Vendors may also be required to abide by the same laws as other business, such as having a business license to operate and following state tax laws.

Local authorities could also still institute regulations on sidewalk vendors, but with stipulations that involve health, safety and welfare concerns.

“With Senate Bill 946 we can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are – women and seniors, single parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” Lara said in the release.

The state senator noted that he introduced the bill after hearing stories about being harassed and even arrested. He cited one case in which a mother was arrested last October while selling corn in Rancho Cucamonga. She was subsequently detained by ICE and held for six months before a judge ordered her release.

Immigration advocates applauded the governor for signing the legislation.

“Before we were working in the shadows, now we will be seen by everyone and can contribute to our economy openly,” said Caridad Vasquez, a sidewalk vendor and a leader with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign.

Roughly 80 percent of some 50,000 vendors in L.A. were estimated to be women, according to a news release from Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, one of over 60 groups that supported the legislation.

“Sidewalk vending is an important and celebrated part of California’s culture and economy,” the organization’s statement said. “Vendors were unfairly denied access to the formal economy and have suffered the harms of local criminalization.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the source of one of the news releases as Gov. Brown’s office. This post has been updated.