OPINION: Legalization finally comes to street vendors

By Michael Barragan

Governor Jerry Brown’s approval of Senate Bill 946 on Sept. 17 is a step in the right direction for street vendors in California.

The bill will change the law to legalize street vending in California, something that should have been done long ago.

The law will allow for those with previous street vending convictions and pending citations to petition for dismissal.

Under the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, cities and counties will be required to enact licensing systems that follow guidelines established in the bill.

The guidelines will limit a local government’s authority to determine where street vendors could operate when not directly related to health, safety, or welfare concerns.

The law will not require street vendors to ask permission to operate from any nongovernmental entities or individuals, such as brick and mortar businesses. This will help street vendors that are continually harassed by police due to businesses complaining about their location of operation.

SB-946 will also prohibit local authorities from totally banning street vending at parks.

Street vendors are still not entirely free at parks.

The text of the bill says “…the local authority may prohibit stationary sidewalk vendors from vending in the park only if the operator of the park has signed an agreement for concessions that exclusively permits the sale of food or merchandise by the concessionaire.”

The bill leaves room for parks owned or operated by local authorities to prohibit street vending if deemed “necessary to ensure the public’s use and enjoyment of natural resources and recreational opportunities” or “necessary to prevent an undue concentration of commercial activity that unreasonably interferes with the scenic and natural character of the park.”

Despite parks having some authority over street vendors, SB-946 is progress for street vendors in California, many of whom are undocumented and work to feed their families and fear repercussions that could lead to deportation.

Martha Placido, a street vendor who sets up in the streets of Silver Lake, said in Spanish, “We do this because we have families and bills to pay.” Placido says that the street vendor community has also wanted a permit program that allows for vendors to operate more freely.

Californians should be proud street vendors will have the freedom to operate without being charged with a crime.

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1.

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