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California legalizes street vendors

Photo taken Dec. 23, 2018, showing a street vendor selling toys in Hollywood, California. Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, California will make street vending legal, creating a boon for many small businesspeople, the vast majority of them Hispanics. EFE-EPA/Ivan Mejia

Photo taken Dec. 23, 2018, showing a street vendor selling toys in Hollywood, California. Starting on Jan. 1, 2019, California will make street vending legal, creating a boon for many small businesspeople, the vast majority of them Hispanics. EFE-EPA/Ivan Mejia

EFE

Starting on Jan. 1, selling items on the street will cease to be illegal in California, a measure that will benefit thousands of small businessmen, the great majority of them Hispanics.

The entry into force on Tuesday of the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, signed in September by Gov. Jerry Brown, prohibits the arrest or fining of street vendors.

Many businesspeople applaud the new rule, something they consider to be a victory in a fight they launched years ago, Mexican immigrant Ines Juarez, who sells roses on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, told EFE.

“What we want is to be able to work in peace,” she said near the star of Marilyn Monroe, expressing relief at the prospect of not being persecuted “as if we were criminals.”

The law, which leaves to the municipalities the power to establish a licensing system to regulate things such as sanitation and security, also eliminates the prior charges and fines.

Floriselda Estrada, 54, sells fruit on the Walk of Fame, where - she said - the authorities “have not bothered” her during the holiday season.

“I thank God that this was established because before I walked the streets with my kids, pulling them along, pulling little wagons and running from the police,” the Guatemalan woman told EFE.

Even so, some of the 50,000 street vendors estimated to operate in Los Angeles are concerned about a municipal ordinance authorizing street selling but setting up specific areas where the vendors must operate.

The measure does not include areas such as Memorial Coliseum, the Staples Center, Dodger Stadium and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Sandra Perez, who sells fruit near the star belonging to actor Tony Curtis , fears being “excluded from Hollywood” because of the ordinance and said that it will be difficult for her to move “because many people already have their spots.”

“For me, it’s necessary to be here because I don’t have anywhere else to go to sell,” said Perez, 32.

Tony Arranaga, with the office of the city councilor for District 13, Mitch O’Farrell, told EFE that the Walk of Fame “has security concerns” and, therefore, a dialogue is being conducted with business representatives who have stores and who sell on the street.

Doug Smith, an attorney for the Public Council organization, which defends street vendors, told EFE that both the state law and the city ordinance seek to protect undocumented street vendors from deportation.

He emphasized that the majority of the street vendors are single mothers.

A 2015 study by the Economic Roundtable found that sidewalk vending was a $504 million a year business in Los Angeles.


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