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LA City Council votes to decriminalize street vending. So what happens next?

Fruit is prepared for street carts at one of Kareem Cart's commissary locations on South Vermont Avenue on Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, 2015. Having county health department licenses insulates the company from having carts confiscated by LAPD.
Fruit is prepared for street carts at one of Kareem Cart's commissary locations on South Vermont Avenue on Wednesday morning, Sept. 2, 2015. Having county health department licenses insulates the company from having carts confiscated by LAPD.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to regulate and decriminalize street vending in the city — a $500 million industry that comprises 50,000 businesses, selling everything from cell phone accessories to L.A.'s signature bacon-wrapped hot dogs.

It will likely take several months for the council and city staff to come up with and finalize the specifics of a permitting process and other regulations, but they, as well as advocates and critics, are not starting from scratch. This comes after years of debate and numerous proposals around the issue.

In recent months, the presidential election and President Donald Trump's campaign promises to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records have spurred the council to take action sooner. That's because street vendors can be ticketed and charged with a misdemeanor, which could be a mark on an undocumented immigrant's record. The city has a "moral imperative to decriminalize vending," councilmembers Curren Price and Joe Buscaino said in a Nov. 22 letter to their colleagues laying out their proposal.

To address that, vendors will now be subject to civil fines or penalties instead of criminal misdemeanors. In December, Councilman David Ryu proposed an amnesty program for recent tickets.

But questions still remain about the specifics of the permitting process, whether neighborhoods and businesses will be able to dictate how many vendors can set up in an area, and enforcement of the rules. The lone "no" vote was from Councilman Mitch Englander, who said decriminalizing street vending before regulations are put in place was putting "the cart before the horse," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Over the years, the city debated three different proposals: a citywide street vending program, specific street vending districts, or a combination of the two that lets different communities decide how they want to manage street vending. The hybrid option was the one put forward by councilmembers Price and Buscaino that advanced through city committees late last year.

Los Angeles County has not legalized street vending. Indeed, some vendors who set up stands in unincorporated parts of L.A. told KPCC in December they were being cited more frequently. And other cities within L.A. County do have strict rules on permitting, like Pasadena, Bell Gardens, Santa Ana and other cities.