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Formalizing Street Vending: A Los Angeles Case Study

The ongoing efforts to reform street vending laws in Los Angeles gained national media attention recently. Can local officials find a way to overcome controversy and complexity to legalize street vending this year?
January 30, 2015, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Sidewalk vending is illegal in the City of Los Angeles, but that doesn’t stop an estimated 50,000 Angelenos from setting up shop in the streets," according to an article for Salon by Henry Grabar. "Their highly visible presence on downtown sidewalks, around parks and stadiums, and at bus stops, metro stations, and parking lots is a bold display of civil disobedience." 

The idea that street vending is illegal in Los Angeles, where street vending is one of the most ubiquitous forms of public life, is counterintuitive, to say the least. Two city councilmembers have decided its time to connect the law with the reality of life on the street. 

According to Grabar, "Los Angeles is the only one of the nation’s 10 largest cities where street vending is illegal, but that could change this year: Two city councilmen, José Huizar and Curren Price, have been working since November of 2013 to move the nation’s second-largest city toward legalizing street vendors. In May, the city’s chief legislative analyst issued a report recommending that L.A. adopt a comprehensive vending policy. The legislation is currently receiving input from relevant city departments, but a spokesman for Huizar told me they expect it to come back before the council later this year — and to pass."

Grabar goes on to detail both the evolving culture of Los Angeles—amidst a shift toward pedestrianism and more public forms of interaction—and the evolving assumptions of urbanism theory, which has begun to find more benefits and lessons in informal arrangements.

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Published on Sunday, January 18, 2015 in Salon
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