California Senate approves bill protecting sidewalk vendors from arrest

The California state Senate voted 22-10 on Thursday, May 3 to approve the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act (Senate Bill 946), which ends criminal penalties for sidewalk vendors statewide and puts them on a path to having a safe and legal business.

“California’s sidewalk vendors are working hard to feed their families and build their businesses, but they are trapped in a legal vacuum, unable to seek a valid business permit and exposed to criminal prosecution,” said Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), author of SB 946. “California needs to start treating sidewalk vendors like any small business owner working to make it in our state – not putting more obstacles in their path.”

The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act allows local governments to regulate vendors if they first create a permit process. The City of Los Angeles voted recently to abolish criminal penalties for vending and create a permit process that allows vendors to come out of the shadows.

Without the protection of local laws, vendors face harassment and shakedowns by local gangs and businesses. A study in Los Angeles found that 80 percent of vendors are women and seniors. Harassment or arrests of vendors strikes at families and at those on fixed incomes.

With Immigration and Customs Enforcement threatening to deport any undocumented immigrant, sidewalk vendors are more vulnerable than ever.

Last year ICE agents detained a sidewalk vendor and mother of four in Rancho Cucamonga after she was arrested for selling corn.

Sidewalk vendors use pushcarts, pedicarts, or other non-motorized vehicles on sidewalks and parks. Many have reported confiscation of property by local authorities when they work without a permit, which would be prevented under SB 946.

The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act will be heard next in an Assembly committee. n

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