Los Angeles Must End Sidewalk Vending Ban

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 9, 2014

Los Angeles—In L.A., street food is more popular than ever. More food trucks are roaming the city, while brick-and-mortar restaurants are offering their own versions of traditional street food. But the sidewalk vendors who inspired this trend are treated like criminals by the city because sidewalk vending is flat-out illegal in L.A. The Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign has organized to legalize food vending on L.A.’s sidewalks.

“The Institute for Justice is excited to join the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign to vindicate these vendors’ right to economic liberty,” said Christina Walsh, director of activism and coalitions for the Institute for Justice, which works with vendors nationwide. “Vending is an honest occupation, and vendors should not live in fear that police will shut them down and take everything from them.”

Bolstering their case is a new study released today from the Institute for Justice that reviewed thousands of food-safety inspection reports from 2009 through July 2012 and found that L.A.’s food trucks and carts did better than restaurants. Per inspection, food trucks averaged around three demerits, while food carts averaged about half as many as brick-and-mortar restaurants. Mobile food vendors are subject to the same health codes and inspection regime as restaurants.


“When food trucks and carts are inspected like restaurants, they are found to be just as clean, if not cleaner, than restaurants. If sidewalk vending is made legal and all vendors are inspected, there is good reason to believe it will be the same for sidewalk vendors,” explained Angela C. Erickson, author ofStreet Eats, Safe Eatsand research analyst for the Institute for Justice. “The idea that street food is unsafe is a myth, and L.A.’s ban on sidewalk vending does not improve public health; it only stifles entrepreneurship and prevents people from deciding where they want to eat.”

The newly released report is part of IJ’s National Street Vending Initiative. The study compares food truck, food cart and restaurant health inspection scores in seven major cities: Boston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Louisville, Miami, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

“In six of the seven cities, mobile vendors performed better than restaurants during inspections. In the seventh, Seattle mobile vendors performed just as well as restaurants,” said Erickson. “The health departments in these cities use the same food-safety criteria for mobile vendors as they do for brick-and-mortar restaurants. The recipe for clean and safe food trucks and carts is simple: inspections.”