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Trial Date Set For Street Vendors’ Lawsuit to End City of L.A.’s “Unlawful & Discriminatory” No-Vending Zones

TRIAL DATE SET FOR STREET VENDORS’ LAWSUIT TO END CITY OF L.A.’S “UNLAWFUL & DISCRIMINATORY” NO-VENDING ZONES

The vendors’ lawyers and three community empowerment organizations issued a statement after the trial-setting conference criticizing the City of LA’s leadership for its failure to take action.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, SEPTEMBER 5, 2023 – Today, L.A. Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant scheduled a trial date for the lawsuit brought by sidewalk vendor advocates and two sidewalk vending business owners against the City of Los Angeles. The suit challenges the City of Los Angeles’ unlawful restrictions on sidewalk vending, which plaintiffs allege violate a 2018 state law, SB 946, that legalized sidewalk vending statewide. In particular, the lawsuit addresses the City’s no-vending zones, which ban vending businesses from some of the most pedestrian-friendly parts of the City. The trial is set for February 15, 2024. 

Three community empowerment groups – Community Power Collective, East LA Community Corporation, and Inclusive Action for the City – which are organizational petitioners in the suit, and their public interest attorneys – Public Counsel and Western Center on Law & Poverty – issued a joint statement after today’s trial-setting conference:

“Every day that the City continues to enforce these unlawful vending restrictions, it contributes to the harm and persecution of sidewalk vendors. Because of these restrictions, vendors must choose between costly tickets and harassment from the Bureau of Street Services (Streets LA) investigators, or operating in isolated and unfamiliar areas where they struggle to make ends meet. Operating in isolated areas also makes vendors more vulnerable to acts of violence and crime. Sidewalk vendors are hard-working small business owners trying to earn an honest living and provide for their families, but these illegal no-vending zones and other restrictive regulations ostracize and bar them from equitable economic opportunity.

We are disappointed that the City has not stepped up to resolve this issue, and is instead allowing this case to go to trial. Many City leaders have been vocal in supporting street vendors, and some have even spoken out against these unlawful restrictions. Yet, in practice, the City continues enforcing draconian policies that discriminate against vendors in favor of brick-and-mortar businesses, which are allowed to set up sprawling outdoor dining operations on our public sidewalks in the exact areas where even a small vending cart is prohibited. As a result of this economic protectionism in favor of wealthier businesses, vendors are left alone to protect themselves and their fellow vendors. In response, vendors have organized themselves and built localized systems of power to challenge the City’s exclusionary policies and assert their legal right to vend within the City’s no-vending zones as active participants in these communities.

Vendor leaders have continuously offered clear and thoughtful solutions that promote equal economic opportunity in Los Angeles while addressing legitimate health and safety issues. The City has the power to end these unlawful and discriminatory policies, yet in the nine months since we filed this lawsuit, it has continued to enforce them, enabling the financial, physical, and psychological harm of its own residents. Instead of choosing to support economic development and working-class, immigrant communities, the City continues to engage in costly litigation. 

We are prepared to go to trial and are confident that the facts and law are on our side. Sidewalk vendors are part of the economic, social, and cultural fabric of Los Angeles, they have organized to protect themselves and each other against discriminatory policies, and we are proud to stand alongside them as they fight for dignity and respect under the law. Our movement will continue to support these efforts, whether that is in the streets, the halls of power, or in the courtroom.”

The lawsuit was filed in December 2022 by street vendors and the above coalition of community empowerment groups. In March 2023, Judge Chalfant rejected the City’s arguments to dismiss the case, allowing the suit to continue. Public Counsel, Western Center on Law & Poverty, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP represent the petitioners.

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Public Counsel: Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.

Arnold & Porter: With nearly 1,000 lawyers and 14 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Arnold & Porter’s lawyers practice in more than 40 practice groups across the litigation, regulatory and transactional spectrum to help clients with complex needs stay ahead of the challenges they face.

Community Power Collective: Community Power Collective builds power with low-income workers and tenants through transformative organizing to win economic justice, community control of land and housing, and to propagate systems of cooperation in Boyle Heights and the greater LA region.

East LA Community Corporation: ELACC is a Boyle Heights-based community development corporation that uses an equitable development model to engage residents traditionally left out of decision-making processes. In addition to affordable housing, they provide financial capability services through their Community Wealth department, which supports sidewalk vendors with free tax preparation, financial coaching, Technical Assistance, and social loans. ELACC is co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign (LASVC) and has worked with micro-entrepreneurs for over a decade.

Inclusive Action for the City: Inclusive Action for the City (IAC) is a Community Development Financial Institution and nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles whose mission is to bring people together to build strong local economies that uplift low-income urban communities through advocacy and transformative economic development initiatives. IAC serves the community through policy advocacy, research, consulting services, business coaching, and a lending program, among other efforts. IAC is a co-founder of the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign and has worked with street vendors and other small business owners for more than 10 years.​

Western Center on Law & Poverty: Fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care, and a strong safety net for Californians with low incomes, through the lens of economic and racial justice. For more information, visit www.wclp.org.

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