The aroma of bacon-wrapped hot dogs greeted concert goers leaving the Art Laboe Chicano Soul Legends concert at the Honda Center in Anaheim last December. After an evening of Oldies But Goodies, people ordered from vendors huddled off to the side of a parking lot entrance, bothering nobody. The scene is a familiar one in the city, whether with eloteros and their push carts at parks during soccer games or fruteros with colorful canopies stationed on sidewalks.
But Anaheim is seeking to keep street vending illegal outside major venues like the Honda Center, Angel Stadium and the City National Grove after sweeping statewide changes are set to arrive next year.
In September, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act into legislation to encourage the entrepreneurial hustle of immigrant and low-income folks free from hassle. When in effect, the new law will stop cities from being able to ban vendors in parks. They wont be able to determine where street vendors are allowed to operate, either–save for public health, safety and welfare concerns. And that’s the interstice where Anaheim seeks to keep regulations in place in the resort area and extend them to Platinum Triangle venues two hours before and after an event.
An ordinance along those lines came before council on Tuesday for its first reading. Anaheim is currently able to ban vending near parks and requires an encroachment permit for anything that may obstruct a street or sidewalk. A study done back in 2000 provided the pretext for a similar ban in the resort area by Disneyland.
“We think we can make those same facts and findings in the Platinum Triangle areas around the Honda Center, the stadium and the City National Grove where we have such high concentration of pedestrian activity that the presence of street vendors could potentially force either pedestrians into the roadway or vendors in the roadway,” David Belmer, planning and building director, told council. After major events, Anaheim police, code enforcement and fire and rescue departments have conducted surveys and pedestrian counts that were taken into consideration prior to the ordinance being drafted.
“What this looks like to the typical resident is that the resort area and these other areas are protected,” councilman James Vanderbilt said. “The biggest complaint people have is, maybe not so much the carts themselves, but the noise that’s created by the air horns or the stadium-type horns that are used to alert people.”
Really? The tinkle of a paletero‘s bell or the horn honks of an elotero are Pavlovian music to my ears!
Anyway, city staff didn’t have enough time to make a case for the continued banning of street vending in parks on the grounds of health, safety and welfare before law takes effect, but Belmer noted a second phase of the ordinance could come back to address that at a later time.
Vanderbilt wasn’t alone in his critical comments. Councilman Stephen Faessel noted he received complaints from residents about street vendors when local schools get out in his East Anaheim district. “I think they’re going to be very chagrined by the fact that we now have to legalize this,” Faessel said. “It seems like these push-cart vendors are allowed to do almost anything.”
Councilman Jose F. Moreno struck a different tone. “I think this is great,” he said of the state law. “The concern that I would have is I don’t know if we should prevent it from happening in the resort or the Honda Center.” Moreno mentioned how a hot dog cart became Carl’s Jr. for an Anaheimer named Carl Karcher, a sentiment mayor Tom Tait later found favor with.
With misdemeanor offenses off the table, the proposed ordinance lays out administrative fines between $100-$500 as the only means of enforcement after each subsequent violation. A permit for street vending could be revoked after a fourth offense. But the fines could also be reduced on an ability-to-pay basis. Street vendors without a permit would be subject to stiffer penalties.
After discussion, council approved the first reading of the ordinance 5-0 with Vanderbilt abstaining.
The ordinance comes back before council on Tuesday for a second reading. If it isn’t adopted before the new year, Anaheim will lose whatever abilities it has left to regulate street vending. I’ll betcha a whole elote cart that won’t happen. Now, who wants to take that bet?
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!