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For L.A. Street Vendors, a Step Toward Legality

Decriminalization gives vendors a measure of safety from a potential crackdown on immigrants. But advocates say there’s still work to be done.
Teo Gonzales, 35, works as a street vendor in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, in June 2015.
Teo Gonzales, 35, works as a street vendor in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, in June 2015.Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

After literal decades of fruitless back-and-forth in City Hall, Los Angeles City Council appears to have finally taken measurable action on the issue of sidewalk vending. Compelled by President Donald Trump’s promised crackdown on undocumented immigrants, the council moved Tuesday to decriminalize street vending. L.A. was the last of the nation’s 10 largest metros where the practice remained completely illegal.

This is an unarguably positive step for the up to 50,000 sidewalk vendors hawking their wares in the city, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. Police enforcement of sidewalk vending laws has been inconsistent and scattered, but vendors still regularly get cited or get their merchandise confiscated by police. The Los Angeles Times reports that more than two dozen vendors were charged with misdemeanor crimes for selling their goods between October 2015 and October 2016.