County getting closer to sidewalk vending 

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Directors of Public Health, Department of Economic Opportunity deliver reports on new ordinances being proposed, what can, cannot be done 

Looking to start your own business selling food or other items on the street? 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has your back. 

While not adopting any official ordinance, the five supervisors pledged at Tuesday’s meeting to back the process made to start a sidewalk vending business that was created through a collaboration between the Department of Public Health and the Department of Economic Opportunity, among other county agencies. 

“I try to be balanced on my approach, recognizing that clearly there are opportunities,” said 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the Santa Clarita Valley. “I’m going to continue to push that because I do believe that there is an opportunity to make it a win-win for those that want to buy from that vendor on the corner and have it be something that enhances the community.” 

The ordinances presented at Tuesday’s meeting would only affect unincorporated areas of the county, such as Stevenson Ranch or Castaic. The city of Santa Clarita already has an ordinance regarding sidewalk vending that was implemented in 2019. 

(To learn more about Santa Clarita’s laws regarding sidewalk vending, visit tinyurl.com/4njfn2ff.) 

According to Kelly LoBianco, the county ordinances would simply be codifying what is now the state law after the passage of Senate Bills 946, which decriminalized sidewalk vending across California, and 972, which defined what a compact mobile food operation is and allows these vendors to obtain public health permits to sell food. 

She touted the ordinances as the next step in helping the country’s largest small business economy, which, according to LoBianco, has 250,000 small businesses and 1.1 million sole proprietors while employing 43% of the total workforce. 

“Without formal regulation, we lacked the clarity, support and pathways to compliance that would improve conditions for vendors, brick-and-mortar businesses and residents alike,” LoBianco said. “This sidewalk vending ordinance affords us a balanced opportunity for the county to better support our workers and businesses.” 

Speaking in front of the board for more than an hour, LoBianco detailed how people can apply for a vending license as well as what is and is not allowed. 

To start, aspiring business owners would have to register with the DEO, with a $604 fee that is being subsidized by the agency for the first year in an effort to be as inclusive as possible. The reapplication fee would then be $100 for the next four years. 

LoBianco said the DEO is willing to walk any aspiring business owner through the process of getting all of the required permits and licenses to open their business. 

“We are going to be doing a lot of education and outreach with Public Health, especially for the food vendors in the enterprise areas,” LoBianco said. “We will make sure that folks understand, if you want to sell fruit from a mobile cart, we’ll talk you through what that means for you to get the relevant permits and licenses, and also what it means to actually operate in the unincorporated areas.” 

To learn more about the potential ordinance regarding sidewalk vending, visit tinyurl.com/stnm8839

While the DEO is responsible for getting a business up and running, Public Health would be responsible for safe and sanitary conditions for sidewalk vendors, especially for those that involve the sale of food. 

Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health, laid out the many different fees for non-motorized carts that must be paid to the agency to have an inspection done to receive the proper permits. Those fees are as follows: 

  • Low-risk (prepackaged non-potentially hazardous food, ice cream, produce): $189 in initial fees and $126 in annual fees. 
  • Moderate risk (prepackaged potentially hazardous food, smoothies, doughnuts): $738 in initial fees and $299 in annual fees. 
  • Moderate risk (limited food preparation, coffee, fruit cart): $932 in initial fees and $299 in annual fees. 
  • High risk (raw meats, fish, poultry): $1,225 in initial fees and $592 in annual fees. 

Fees would be even higher for anyone looking to operate a business in a motorized vehicle, and another fee would be incurred if the non-motorized cart is being kept at a home or at a commissary with other vendor carts. 

“We want to make sure that with the changes to SB 972, we make it easier to have these alternative food facilities and we create a permitting process for those,” Ferrer said. 

The ordinance regarding permits from Public Health would go into effect in March should it be passed at the board’s next meeting on Feb. 6. 

The ordinance regarding permits for sidewalk vendors would go into effect 180 days after adoption by the board, allowing for enough time for the DEO to perform outreach. 

Barger and a couple of her colleagues were concerned with the possibility of pop-up restaurants taking advantage of the new ordinances to set up tables and chairs instead of just a cart with the items for sale. 

Both Ferrer and LoBianco said those would not be permitted under current state law, except when attached to a community event that allows for that space to be used. Both said they would be working with community groups to give pop-up restaurants a chance to do business, at the correct time and place. 

Supervisor Hilda Solis, 1st District, asked how enforcement would be done. Both Ferrer and LoBianco said they were aware that for many sidewalk vendors, that is their only source of income, so the emphasis would be on educating rather than punishing. 

“There would definitely be a care-first approach,” LoBianco said. “The DEO will focus on engagement first. This is a newly regulated economy and so we are going to be working to support first-time compliance for vendors.” 

Ferrer said that while anyone in non-compliance when it comes to food handling will have the unsafe food confiscated, the idea is to teach those business owners how to properly handle their business. 

“We do start with education,” Ferrer said. “It’s a complaint-based system in terms of enforcement. People do call us, and that could be individual residents, that could be businesses, that could be elected officials who call us to address concerns around enforcement of what they consider unsafe street vending. Our strategies are that we will need to, when we go out to these sites, we will do a lot of education all the time.” 

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