Food Fight
LA to Ban Street Vending?

Los Angeles lawmakers recently voted to ban vending of food and trinkets in certain public areas, like parks and beaches. The reasons:

Backers such as Councilman Joe Buscaino said that the reinstated rules would protect the city from being sued if someone was hurt or sickened by the wares or services sold by unlicensed park vendors. “Say someone gets hurt during an unpermitted yoga class, who would be liable?” Buscaino asked Senior Assistant City Atty. Valerie Flores.

“Arguably, the city could be sued,” Flores said.

Banning unpermitted vending could help defend the city from such suits, Flores said. If the city did not have the option to charge repeat offenders with a misdemeanor, she told lawmakers, vendors might continue plying their business in parks and simply pay the fines as a “cost of doing business.”

The ban has been opposed by a mixed coalition of advocacy groups and community activists, largely for the detrimental effect it is expected to have on the vibrant cultural life of the city and on the economic prospects of the poor and working class.

This managerial overstretch does little good and much harm. While it’s reasonable to insist that certain regulations be followed, the outright ban is unlikely to be effective and will probably be enforced only discriminately. Many thousands of Angelenos depend on this economy to make a living. As we remarked before, about burdensome regulations on food trucks across the country, policies like this are “self-destructive… because [they] make it harder for small, undercapitalized entrepreneurs to employ themselves—exactly the kind of people cities should be helping, not hurting.” In their zeal to project themselves from lawsuits, regulators may be threatening thousands of workers’ livelihoods just at a time when jobs are hard to come by.

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