Food Freedom

California Finally Legalizes Street Vending

The Trump administration's deportation push finally forced the Golden State to stop criminalizing everything.


L.A. street vendors

Rejoice, California street vendors! Soon you will face much less nasty government harassment and criminalization for plying your trade. In a roundabout way, you can thank Pres. Donald Trump for your new freedoms.

Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 946. This bill, sponsored by state Senator Ricardo Lara (D–Bell Gardens), formally legalizes sidewalk vending within California and forbids cities from completely banning street merchants.

Sadly, it's not a free-market free-for-all. Cities and counties can still regulate and license vendors for public safety and welfare concerns and will have some controls over time and place. But the law makes it clear municipalities can't confine sidewalk vendors to certain neighborhoods or ban them entirely.

It's a significant development for the many California residents—many of them immigrants—who want to earn a living without being harassed by police, arrested, or having their property destroyed. (Remember the University of California police officer in Berkeley shutting down an unlicensed hot dog vendor and taking his money? The Los Angeles war on bacon-wrapped hot dogs?)

Los Angeles finally started loosening its grip and formally passing regulations to allow legal street vending earlier this year. Mind you, there's street vending all over Los Angeles regardless of its criminality. The law was essentially a stamp of approval on something the city couldn't control anyway. You can still get those delicious hot dogs at stands literally outside the courthouses in downtown Los Angeles right now. The big difference is that now capricious and random enforcement is no longer a looming threat.

What seems to finally have forced both the city of Los Angeles and the Golden State itself to get with the freedom agenda is Trump's deportation program. After Trump's election, Los Angeles city leaders realized that arresting and locking up poor immigrants for street vending could be used as a pretext for federal officials to round them up and deport them. That awareness seems to have made its way to the statehouse, where pols are eager to preserve California's status as a sanctuary state.

SB 946 also helps to take care of those previous crackdowns by dismissing all current cases being prosecuted and allowing persons who had previously been convicted to petition for dismissal. And further, the law requires that future enforcement of street vending regulations be handled by administrative fines, not misdemeanor charges.

All in all, this is a very good bill for economic and food freedom and we should celebrate its passage. (And thank Trump, I guess?)