LOS ANGELES (AP) — They seem to be everywhere on the streets of Los Angeles — pushcarts and tables filled with everything from hot dogs and tamales to toys and tools.
You’re a tourist in Hollywood with a phone that’s about to die and no charger? No problem. There should be someone nearby selling them.
You’re craving a freshly made pupusa, a Salvadoran delicacy made with a corn tortilla stuffed with salsa, beans, cabbage and other tasty things? Yeah, you can get that, too.
Such sales are illegal, although the law is rarely enforced.
Now, after a decade of debate and compromise, the Los Angeles City Council will consider an ordinance Wednesday that would grant permits to sidewalk vendors, allowing them to come out of the legal shadows and putting the city on the same footing as New York and Chicago on the issue.
An estimated 50,000 vendors peddle their wares along Los Angeles sidewalks and in parks and other public places, hawking souvenir hats, sunglasses, T-shirts, purses and other merchandise, as well as food from countries all over the world.
Many are immigrants eking out modest livings who have pushed for years for the change.
“Our vendors are very excited that after 10 years of conversation and discussions and work on this that it’s feeling like it’s coming to fruition,” said Isela Gracian, president of the East LA Community Corporation, which has been lobbying the city for such an ordinance.
Some details were still being worked out Tuesday, including how many competing vendors could operate a table or pushcart in a park or on a street. And, more importantly, how much a permit would cost.
Food vendors would need to get separate permits from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, just like the hundreds of food truck operators in the area.
New York and Chicago have been licensing street vendors for years. Permits run about to but can be hard to get because of waiting lists.
New York has an estimated 20,000 street vendors, according to The Street Vendor Project, an advocacy group.
“Among the large cities, LA is the only one that doesn’t have a program like this,” said Gracian, noting that her group studied the other cities to learn how to avoid conflicts with brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants on streets where vendors sometimes park their pushcarts.
One vendor who sets up in front of a corner grocery in the city’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, sells freshly cooked food but won’t sell drinks, suggesting people buy them from the store.
She calls it synergy and a way to support each other.