The city is inviting people to share their thoughts on the future of street and sidewalk vending as Long Beach develops local regulations that comply with new state laws. A survey, released Friday, asks residents, business owners, sidewalk vendors and customers about their experiences with street vending in general, the main issues and concerns they have, and the benefits the businesses provide to the city.

The responses will help the city understand where sidewalk vendors are operating the most and the type of vendors that are seen most frequently in order to develop an ordinance that will coincide with Senate Bill 946 and Senate Bill 972, which loosen restrictions on street vending.

Senate Bill 972, first introduced by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) in February and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September, was supported by the City Council. It modernizes the California Retail Food Code and makes it easier for vendors to secure health permits by removing barriers that previously required them to have access to sinks, restrooms and water tanks.

Violations of any of the codes under the new law have also been changed from a misdemeanor to an administrative fine though certain health codes for food vendors will still be in place even after the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, according to the Long Beach Health Department.

Senate Bill 946, which took effect in 2019, decriminalized sidewalk vending and allowed food and merchandise vendors to operate on public sidewalks and other pedestrian pathways. SB 946 removed the city’s ability to regulate vendors unless there is a health, safety or welfare issue.

“We are committed to supporting sidewalk vendors and helping them integrate into the formal economy by engaging in thoughtful conversations with all stakeholders to help determine what sidewalk vending in Long Beach should look like,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a statement.

First District Councilmember Mary Zendejas first proposed a resolution for the city to develop a new ordinance to support sidewalk or street vending back in March, and it was largely approved by the City Council with an eight-to-one vote. However, some still had concerns about “bad operators” or vendors who did not comply with regulations or made people sick with their products.

“We have an opportunity to connect with residents, business owners and sidewalk vendors and work together to create a sidewalk vending ordinance that supports the specific needs of Long Beach,” Zendejas said.

In recent years, street vendors have been subject to racist attacks, physical assaults, health department shutdowns and complaints. Community members have taken to social media platforms like Nextdoor to share their concerns about sidewalk restaurants in particular.

“Are they licensed by the city? What company owns these restaurants? Since it is not a food truck how does the Long Beach Health Department run checks?” one user asked this week about a taco stand in Cambodia Town.

In the comments of that post, others had concerns over the taxes the business pays and whether or not they are allowed to operate in front of other brick-and-mortar restaurants.

“These food stands are clean, family owned, not overpriced, and tasty…You won’t be disappointed and I guarantee you’ll be back,” another user replied

Street vendors like Lionel Perez have tried their best to comply with the city and have been careful not to disturb the business of neighboring restaurants but have still been met with resistance.

On Aug. 2, Perez’s popular East Long Beach taco stand, Tacos Lionydas, was the target of harassment by a man who he caught on video shouting, “Let’s get the migra here. Let’s get ICE here!” at his staff.

Almost two months later on Sept. 28, the city’s health department received a complaint and the stand was shut down for violating many food and safety codes including operating without a permit, having unrefrigerated foods like beans and salsa, placing food and drink containers too close to bushes, having no hand-washing facility and a lack of food safety knowledge.

The health department had made contact with Perez twice before as part of its “education first” approach and shut down the stand after the third violation. However, Perez said the education only involved him being handed a slip of paper that was difficult to understand.

While the city develops the new regulations, sidewalk vendors must follow these requirements, according to the release:

  • Vendors must not operate in the street.
  • Vendors with food operations must have a city health permit.
  • Vendors providing non-food services and merchandise must have a special event vendor permit or business license and are typically not allowed on public property without special permission.
  • Vendors must comply with applicable local, State, and federal law, including the California Retail Food Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The survey will be available until Dec. 18 and the city expects to release the survey findings early next year. Those interested in completing the survey may do so online or visit any Long Beach Public Library. Both the online and paper surveys are available in English, Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog and anyone who lives, works, studies and visits Long Beach is invited to participate, according to the city.

Tacos Lionydas, a popular East Long Beach taco stand, shut down by health department