On Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 946, which prohibits criminal punishment for street vendors statewide.
Cities and counties can now create permit programs for vendors, and the bill also gives street vendors a way to remove prior citations, according to a press release from the office of state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The press release also stated that one of the reasons for creating the bill was to establish protection for immigrant vendors from harassment and arrests.
“With Senate Bill 946 we can start seeing sidewalk vendors for who they are – women and seniors, single parents, and micro-business owners taking that first step to starting their own business,” said Lara, the author of the bill, in a press release.
This bill provides protection against citations from police officers for vendors in California, such as in the case on Sept. 9, 2017 for street vendor Juan “Beto” Macias.
Macias, who was selling hot dogs outside of a Cal football game, was cited for vending without a permit and fined $60 by UCPD Officer Sean Aranas. Campus alumnus Martin Flores posted a video of the event, which went viral in the days immediately after the event. A GoFundMe campaign was also started, raising more than $98,000 to help Macias.
“I donated because I felt compelled by his story and so that he could have a chance to get his own truck and do things right. He wasn’t stealing or doing any other criminal activity, he was working in an honest way to provide for his needs,” said GoFundMe donor Ulises Gallegos in a Facebook message.
Gallegos said street vending provides the public with “diverse cultural gastronomy” and, in some cases, can lead to new business opportunities, such as actual restaurant ownership.
City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said Berkeley already has preexisting policies that allow food vending. For cities like Berkeley, the next steps are to re-evaluate their policies.
Worthington added that the bill is “a great way to decriminalize vending for the sake of immigrant families.” Worthington also said the change from criminal to administrative fines is “the most powerful and important part of the bill.”
Michael Soller, spokesperson for Lara’s office and former Daily Californian arts editor, said there are now more opportunities for street vendors to formally join the state’s economy.
“Thousands of sidewalk vendors from every culture — every community — have operated in the shadow, outside the formal economy,” Soller said. “Cities are now recognizing them and changing the way they are seen — not a nuisance, but as a benefit.”
A previous version of this article failed to disclose that Michael Soller formerly worked at The Daily Californian.