It’s estimated that 50,000 street vendors sell goods in the city of Los Angeles. Despite a street-vending culture that dates to the 19th century, these sidewalk entrepreneurs – the push-cart ice cream man, cooks of bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and purveyors of cut fruit, CDs and myriad other products – operate unlawfully.
The Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona will host a symposium on Thursday, May 19, titled “Should the City of Los Angeles Legalize Street Vending?” The discussion will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in Building 7, room 100C.
A coordinated movement to legalize street vending has emerged in recent years and is gaining support in some areas.
The panel discussion will be led by experts on the informal economy and street vending. Confirmed speakers include Doug Smith, an attorney from a pro-bono firm who is partnering with the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign, and Alvaro Huerta, a Cal Poly Pomona professor of urban and regional planning and ethnic and women’s studies. Huerta is an expert on the informal economy and the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm.” Other speakers are pending.
“Street vendors, many of whom are Latino immigrants, support the local economy as they purchase goods from the formal market,” Huerta says. “With their earnings, they also contribute to the formal economy with the purchase of goods and services, along with paying rent, etc.
“We should not criminalize economic behavior that by nature is not criminal or illicit. … By citing them a week’s pay or more and taking away their goods, the police treat them no different than drug dealers or other criminals. At the end of this day, this is a moral issue,” he says.
Editor’s Note: Photo courtesy of Steven Bavacqua, Flickr Creative Commons.