LA County will require street food stands to have health permits and enforce distancing between vendors

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively approved two ordinances regulating sidewalk food vendors, including establishing fees that the county hopes to largely subsidize.

The ordinances will both go back to council for final approval next week.

According to Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office, there are about 10,000 street vendors selling food in the county, most of them from Latinos and other communities of color.

“Sidewalk vending, including food sales, represents an integral part of the cultural and civic fabric of Los Angeles County,” Solis said in a statement. “This is especially true in the First District, where communities like East Los Angeles have long been a hub for food vending. For many residents, particularly those from low-income or immigrant communities, vending food represents one of the few economic paths to achieving financial independence and stability.

The council approved two ordinances, the first of which sets health permit requirements for “compact mobile food operations,” which are smaller operations run from carts or other non-motorized equipment. The order, which would apply to all vendors in the county except those in Pasadena, Long Beach and Vernon, all of which have their own health departments. The city of Long Beach approved its own sidewalk vending ordinance last week.

Under the county ordinance, obtaining a health permit would require the operator to pay an upfront fee, ranging from $508 for a low-risk operation selling prepackaged foods to $1,186 for vendors at more high risk that prepare and sell hot food, such as a taco stand or hot dog cart. Sellers would then have to pay ongoing annual fees ranging from $226 to $1,000, depending on the type of sale.

Solis said she plans to introduce a motion next week to largely subsidize those fees for low-income sellers, which could cover up to 75% of the cost of the health permit.

The second ordinance approved by the council sets regulations for vendors, including restrictions on where and when they can operate and distancing requirements between vendors. Sellers would also be prohibited from connecting to public utilities such as water and electricity sources.

Under the ordinance, sellers would have to register with the county and pay a $604 registration fee. However, that fee would also be largely subsidized by the county’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which would cover the full cost of the permit the first year and then reduce it to $100 in subsequent years.

“We must do everything we can to encourage sellers to register and enter the formal economy,” Solis said in a statement. “This involves removing as many financial barriers as possible that might hinder participation. These sellers are microentrepreneurs in the truest sense of the word, and their net income may be such that even a fee of a few hundred dollars represents a significant burden.

“I appreciate that our Department of Economic Opportunity has found a way to waive the fee in the first year while reducing it significantly in subsequent years. At the same time, it is essential that we also look at the costs of the Department of Public Health.

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