It’s midday on New Year’s Eve and the Fashion District’s Santee Alley is buzzing. Scores of visitors peruse the multitudes of shops that line the neighborhood, fingering through various deals and stopping to eye new outfits.
On the sidewalk, pedestrians shuffle from stall to stall; bookended on nearly every block with men and women in front of carts and trucks, selling everything from sliced fruit in a cup, to churros and bacon-wrapped hotdogs.
As the world welcomed the start of 2020, those vendors, who are just a sliver of the 50,000 that are estimated to operate in Los Angeles, were also able to look toward a new future. Last week, on Thursday, Jan. 2, the City of Los Angeles kick started its legal street vending program and began accepting permits for legal street food vending. Under the new rules, every Los Angeles street vendor will be required to buy a permit with the city, or face fines.
Still, while most are praising the new rules for street vendors, some are worried that too many people who will be ultimately impacted by the change, are still unaware of the incoming laws.
Rudy Espinoza is the Executive Director of Leadership for Urban Renewal Network, a community development organization that focuses on equitable community building and said that his biggest concern is that too many street vendors in Los Angeles have not been provided effective education to properly participate in the program.
“The big takeaway is that there has been a huge lack of investment in education and that is a big concern of mine,” Espinoza said during a phone call with Los Angeles Downtown News the day the new rules went into effect. “I think a lot of street vendors, many who are in Downtown, don’t know what the rules are and there has to be a serious investment to reach them.”
Espinoza, who’s organization LURN was part of the Los Angeles Street Vending Coalition that has been fighting to legalize street vending for over a decade, argued that most vendors that he has talked to want to acquire permits and legitimize their businesses, but are simply unaware of how to go about it.
“Street vendors want to be formalized, the members of our campaign want an education campaign, but you have to let people know that a permit exist,” Espinoza said.
Mario Hernandez has sold bacon-wrapped hotdogs and other foods out of his food truck in the Fashion District for the past three years and was one of the vendors at work when a Los Angeles Downtown News reporter canvassed the neighborhood to question how many people knew of the rule changes.
Hernandez said that he was made aware of the changes by a family friend a few weeks ago, and admits that if it weren’t for that chance announcement, he probably would still be left out of the loop. He said he’s concerned that others might be in the same boat.
“I don’t think others out here do know,” Hernandez said. “I’ve tried to tell a few, some listen, others don’t.”