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Council lifts ban on vending near Hollywood Bowl, other popular L.A. locations

HOLLYWOOD-CA - DECEMBER 8, 2022: Jorge Cruz, left, and his son Luis, 5, gather with street vendors and supporters on Hollywood's Walk of Fame to demonstrate against an LA city ordinance created of eight citywide no vending zones, on Thursday, December 8, 2022. Cruz and his wife sell fruit in Santa Monica and say they are often harassed by police. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Jorge Cruz and his son Luis, 5, gather with street vendors and supporters on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2022 to demonstrate against L.A.'s ban on vending in popular locations. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

With nearly 100 street vendors sitting in the audience, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to lift bans on vending in seven high-traffic areas across the city, including the Hollywood Bowl and Dodger Stadium.

The no-vending zones were established by a 2018 ordinance that decriminalized street vending elsewhere in the city and created rules and regulations for vendors. The other no-vending zones lifted are the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Crypto.com Arena, Universal Studios, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and Exposition Park.

City officials said at the time that street vendors worsen congestion in these crowded areas, but they did not provide any data confirming their claim. A 2018 California law decriminalized street vending throughout the state and restricted local governments from limiting sidewalk sales unless there were “objective health, safety or welfare concerns.”

In 2022, two street vendors and a trio of community organizations sued the city over the no-vending zones, arguing that the zones violated state law. The city did not have sufficient evidence to outlaw street vending in those areas, they said.

Read more: L.A. street vendors sue city over right to sell in prohibited zones

“We pored over thousands of pages of city documents and records and found nothing to support why they identified these areas,” said Joshua Busch, communications director for Public Counsel, the pro bono law firm representing the vendors. “It needs to be an objective assessment, not just someone’s gut feeling or concern.”

The City Council motion that led to the elimination of the no-vending zones acknowledged that the city’s street vending ordinance had to be amended “to ensure that it is compliant with state law.”

Other regulations governing where street vendors can sell will remain in place, including a ban on vending booths within five feet of fire hydrants and three feet of street lights and parking meters.

“Today’s vote is about putting the city in line with the state standards,” said Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martínez, who introduced the motion along with council President Paul Krekorian.

“We were basically taking away some of the most popular areas for street vendors,” Soto-Martínez said. “Having them be able to be there without the threat of being ticketed or harassed, it's going to be huge. They’re part of the social fabric of the city."

Merlin Alvarado, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, has been selling fruit and hot dogs on Hollywood Boulevard for 17 years. She has received several citations for selling near the Walk of Fame, but still chooses to sell there because of the abundance of potential customers.

The elimination of the no-vending zones will allow her to reach customers without the threat of citations and fines, she said in Spanish. A native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Alvarado uses her profits from street vending to support her three children.

Read more: L.A. County backs a legal path for street vendors in unincorporated areas

“Street vending often provides new immigrants with an opportunity to become entrepreneurs,” Krekorian said. “Street vendors, sensibly regulated, can play a vital role in the life of a vibrant commercial district.”

In a separate vote Tuesday, the council lowered the permit fee for street vendors to $27.51 from $291. Both Soto-Martínez and Krekorian had family members who were street vendors in Los Angeles.

Although the City Council addressed the major component of Alvarado’s lawsuit by eliminating the no-vending zones, Busch of Public Counsel said they are still going to go through with the trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 15.

“While this is a great step forward and certainly a victory for vendors in Los Angeles, it does have important limitations in terms of not addressing citations and fines,” he said.

Busch wants to see street vendors refunded for the citations they received while vending in the “unlawful” no-vending zones. He also wants all pending citations expunged.

On Tuesday, Busch and the street vendors celebrated their victory in City Hall. Soto-Martínez said the vendors have been fighting for years for this win.

“The credit should go to the folks that are organizing every single day on the ground," he said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.