City leaders in Santa Ana are explaining their decision to essentially declare war on unlicensed street vendors, having shut down more than 100 over the past six weeks.

The city says inspectors found many of the food vendors were not sanitizing their stations and preparing food properly, and went as far as to say the food was “unfit for human consumption.”

“The County Health Department said that some of the food was too raw and that the heat being prepared was not hot enough to cook the food thoroughly enough,” Alvaro Nunez, the city’s Assistant Director of Planning and Building, told KTLA 5 Wednesday.

Santa Ana Mayor Valerie Amezcua says all food businesses, big and small, need to adhere to the same standards.

“We want you to have a place to wash your hands. We don’t want people to get sick if you’re serving food that’s not cooked properly or stored properly,” Amezucua said. “We want to make sure they’re getting their permits from the county. That is what’s important.” 

Steve Nguyen, a Santa Ana business owner, says he sympathizes with the vendors and has noticed a decline in downtown foot traffic since the crackdown.

“I understand the value of things being up to code. That‘s definitely something you want to have, but at the same time, these are people trying to make a living on the street,” Nguyen told us. “They are doing everything they can especially with joblessness during the pandemic.”

Mayor Amezcua says the street vendors who were shut down can reopen if they obtain the proper permitting.