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Mid-City CAN Blog

Group tries to bring street vending out of shadows

City Heights' economy is not limited to stores and the formal economy. Many rely on paleteros, or those who sell ice pops, and other street vendors for food, clothing and other necessities.

In September, about a half dozen Mid-City CAN members traveled to Los Angeles to better understand the street vending issues and its impact in City Heights and be trained by the East Los Angeles Community Corporation.

Janet Favela, a community organizer at ELACC, described the training “as sharing our perspective, our experiences, maybe some other tools or strategies that we use.”

Highlighting the importance of the issue is a recent report, which said the “informal economy is almost necessary to meet standard living expenses.” James Bliesner and Mirle Rabinowitz Bussell, Ph.D. , prepared the report, called “The Informal Economy in City Heights,” for the City Heights Community Development Corporation.

Street vending’s importance is based on factors like “linguistic isolation, high unemployment, low levels of education, high cost of housing, large family size and geographical concentrations of immigrant populations,” it said.

In May and June, Bliesner and Bussell administered 112 surveys to residents of City Heights to investigate the ways that residents “participate in the informal economy.” The goal was to survey men and women of diverse ages, races, ethnicities and immigrant status. With 104 surveys validated, they found that 87 percent of respondents used the informal economy to buy food and 87.8 used it to buy clothing.

But selling things on the street is more difficult than buying merchandise and having a way to transport it.

In San Diego, vendors need permits, including a solicitor application, police permit application, business addendum, Business Tax Certificate from the City Treasurers office and Live Scan fingerprinting for a background check, according to the report. Those that sell food also need a health permit. Vendors also pay a $104 investigation fee, $54 regulatory fee and $15 for a photo ID.

Many vendors don’t comply with all these regulations and can be ticketed for selling products.

“We are trying to work with the cart venders in City heights to have them both legalize what they are doing and maybe sell healthier options eventually,” said Melanie Nally, a member of Mid-City CAN’s Coordinating Council and San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. “I think it would be great if we could do the same thing [ELACC is] doing here, maybe build a coalition around cart venders.”

Along with Nally, three representatives from Employee Rights Center also made the trip and for many of them, hearing from a street vender reemphasized why the issue is important.

“Many people don’t really know about the type of work these people go through,” said Mario Muniz, a volunteer with Employee Rights Center. “And that’s actually what brings a lot of money for them to financially support their families.”

 Alor Calderon, Mario Muniz, Melanie Nally and Adrian Huerta-Reyes learned about challenges facing street vendors from  East Los Angeles Community Corporation on Sept. 4. (From left) Alor Calderon, Mario Muniz, Melanie Nally and Adrian Huerta-Reyes learned about challenges facing street vendors from East Los Angeles Community Corporation on Sept. 4.

(From left) Alor Calderon, Mario Muniz, Melanie Nally and Adrian Huerta-Reyes learned about challenges facing street vendors from East Los Angeles Community Corporation on Sept. 4.

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