The Legalization of Street Vending in Los Angeles: How Regulation (Dis)empowers Street Vendors

Faculty Mentor: Regina Freer, Politics Department

Major: Politics

Funding: Institute for the Study of Los Angeles (ISLA) Fellowship


The legalization of street vending is an important issue to study and theorize because it affects some of the most marginalized people in our society. Seeing as an ideal policy framework for legalization does not exist, this research study utilized Los Angeles as a case study to explore the effects of street vending legalization. This study found that a majority of food street vendors in Los Angeles are left out of the legalization process because they are unable to invest in a mobile food facility. Moreover, their financial standings, oftentimes paired with their undocumented status, prevents many from legitimizing their business. While there are those that do hope to legalize their business, I found that some, irrespective of their financial capabilities, did not have any aspiration of legalizing their business. This signals that there are other aspects of street vending legalization that are discouraging vendors from formalizing their business. The most cited reasons are the abundant, yearly fees, and the various zoning laws set up across the city. In all, the absence of affordable vending infrastructure, and the existence of unfavorable regulations suggest that street vendors will continue to operate illegally and thus continue to endure state and civil violence.


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