Street vendors and safe streets

EPGNews has a story on a street vending study conducted in Boyle Heights by our SPPD students who were doing their academic capstone. The students, Josefina Campos, Jasmine Kim, and Lauren Yokomizo, did the work for the Los Angeles Urban Renewal Network. They did a great job.

The students conducted a street survey and a survey of brick-and-mortar vendors and street vendors. There are several illuminating parts of the story:

Yes, it reminds me of Mexico but it also reminds me of Europe where it is possible to buy falafel, crepes and other snack foods easily from street carts in plazas and on city streets,” wrote Chimatli Tellez, who identified herself as a fourth generation Angeleno and resident of Lincoln Heights. “It’s a global thing, not a third world thing.”

So the notion here is that multiple types of businesses build up a diversity of possibilities within an area–the center of mixed uses. But, the part that kills me here: the suggest that the Third World is somehow not attractive, but associating activities such as this with Europe makes them seem somewhat higher class. Third World=ghetto urban design, Europe=classy urban design. Even though Third World design is predominately European urban design, via colonialism.

.….Other stakeholders complained that obstructed sidewalks forced people onto the street, and that open flames are hazardous to the community. Besides unfair competition, other disadvantages identified in the study include: increased traffic and pedestrian congestion, reduced property values and reduced quality of life through pollution of public spaces.

Pollution of public spaces? From the smoke from open fires?

Here we have the trifecta, however, of why we often can’t change anything in cities and why the political economy of space within neighborhoods becomes exclusionary: congestion, property values, pollution. All that from street vendors?


Among the advantages of street vending identified by researchers, were: affordable products and services for low-income residents, income opportunities for immigrants and lower-income residents seeking employment, and increased foot traffic that contributes to “the revitalization of the community’s street life.”

“The revitalization of the community’s street life”, aka “congestion.”