Street Vendors are Part of LA’s Economic Fabric

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Let’s face it the economy of our country is still in a rut and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate in the City of Los Angeles, as of February, is at 8.1%. A lot of people are still out of work. 

These days, finding a job and starting a business in Los Angeles is not an easy task. According to the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign more than 50,000 street vendors work on LA’s streets in order to provide and care for their families as this economy continues to hurt LA’s working class.  What would happen to the economy and safety of our city if we were to ban these businesses all of a sudden?    

Let’s remember that the city banned all Street Vending in 1980, but in 1974 when the City Council voted to ban street vending for the first time throughout the city, then Mayor Tom Bradley vetoed the ordinance because he said that he believed that we need to encourage, not discourage, the creation of new small-business enterprises, without which upward mobility would become that much more difficult. I think that statement is even more true in 2015. 

I understand that some residents and members of the business community may not like the idea of allowing street vendors because it may create unfair competition for businesses that face higher costs. We need to take into consideration small business needs and concerns. It doesn’t need to be an all or nothing deal, perhaps we could have areas where Street Vending is permitted and others where it’s not. 

Regardless of how it is ultimately done one thing is for certain, we need to get this underground economy out of the shadows. Today, Los Angeles is the only major city where Street Vending is illegal and this needs to change. That’s why I add my voice in calling for the City Council and the Mayor to come up with a comprehensive Street Vending policy, which will decriminalize, regulate, and tax the Street Vending economy but allow it to remain a vital element in 21st century Los Angeles. 

To understand the phenomenon of street vending we need to realize that Los Angeles is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. This is what makes LA a great American city with people from approximately 140 countries speaking 86 different languages. 

Hispanics form a distinct plurality at nearly 49% of the LA population. Foreign-born residents number more than 1.5 million. 

I grew up in Mexico City. Street Vending was, and continues to be, everywhere … imbedded in the daily lives of all who live in that metropolis. Rich and poor have lunch at some of the “puestitos ambulantes de la esquina” (mobile street corner business).  When I moved to Los Angeles I wasn’t surprised at all to see that these “puestitos” were well established in some areas of LA. 

Let’s celebrate LA’s great diversity by incorporating this group of hardworking entrepreneurs into the economic life of our city. It’s good for our local economy, our safety, and our health.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village.  He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 39

Pub: May 12, 2015