Long Beach council to seek greater protections for street vendors

The Long Beach City Council is looking at developing a safety program for street vendors that would protect them and their small businesses. Councilwoman Suely Saro’s office is leading the proposed agenda item, which would be further discussed at the June 15 City Council meeting.

The proposition would include an overview of street vending laws throughout the state and Long Beach, strategies to eliminate cash transactions to reduce robberies, cameras and other security tools installed on vending carts and ways to report crimes to the police without fear of exposing their immigration status.

The proposition to create more safeguards comes as attacks against street vendors are increasing regionally. The Los Angeles Police Department reported that crimes against street vendors rose nearly 337% between 2010-2019.

Comparable statistics for Long Beach weren’t immediately available. But recently, a man was beaten, pistol whipped and robbed in the Washington Neighborhood as he was selling items from his cart.

Protests have taken place in Long Beach for city officials to get involved and develop more protections.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on small businesses did not spare street vendors, as some also say a decrease in clients when the closures began. Pedro Castellanos-Aguilar, a deaf Long Beach paletero, previously told the Post that school closures hurt his clientele and his sales dropped.

Economic Roundtable, an urban research nonprofit in Los Angeles, reported that street vendors generated about $504 million before the pandemic struck. The decline in sales as a result of the pandemic had a ripple effect throughout the street vending businesses, and suppliers also felt the brunt of the economic recession.

Cultural and language barriers may also be keeping street vendors from reaching out to authorities for help. Some vendors fear retaliation if they lack documentation, for themselves as well as their food cart, if they speak to police to report a crime against them.

Councilwoman Mary Zendejas said this barrier is something the safety program could address.

“I hope this item allows for creative solutions and provide an opportunity for the City Council to reassure our undocumented residents that they can feel safe to call police for assistance,” Zendejas said in a statement. “A resident’s status is never a consideration when help is needed.”

City departments will have to research what this program would look like and report back their findings to the council in 60 days.

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