LA’s street vendors rolling May Day caravans to City Hall to demand relief amid coronavirus crisis – Daily News

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Street vendors are poised to begin a May Day caravan en mass to Los Angeles City Hall on Friday morning, May 1, to demand relief as the COVID-19 shutdown have locked their customers indoors.

The event is one of multiple displays designed to call attention to vulnerable workers, often on the frontlines of the pandemic that has cost lives and livelihoods.

Starting their trek from five L.A. neighborhoods, the vendors planned to make their way early, on the city’s largely traffic-free roads.

But in better times, the hustle-and-bustle of that traffic fueled their business — as the aroma of a sizzling bacon-wrapped hot dog or the sweetness of a sugar-coated churro attracted L.A.’s daytime and nighttime crowds.

But after coronavirus-induced Safer at Home orders, it’s about just making the rent — which for so many Southern Californians is due today.

“Everybody is stressing about the rent,” said Yajaira Salvador, 20, a caravaner who with her family operates one of the several taco stand that line Glenoaks Boulevard outside the San Fernando swap meet, normally boasting their juicy birria and barbacoa meats. “I really hope the city realizes that this is how we maintain our families. We don’t have any other jobs. I just hope they understand that, and help us with at least some financial assistance.”

After years of debate, the L.A. City Council in 2018 legalized street vending, while setting down a plan to regulate such business. The first permits were issued in January under the city’s new program, where sidewalk vendors can apply for operating permits during a six-month enrollment period at a reduced fee of $291 through the end of June. Effective July 1, the fee will increase to $541 and permits will be mandatory.

But then came March 19, when facing a potentially catastrophic toll from coronavirus, the city and county issued orders to the county’s 10 million people to stay home.

While the stay-home orders are working to slow the spread of the virus, they have crippled the region’s economy for weeks, leaving thousands of businesses on the verge of collapse, according to the L.A. Street Vendor Campaign, which organized the caravan.

Several have continued working, prompting the threat of being fined for failing to comply with social distancing orders. Food vendors who don’t comply with the orders face a $1,000 fine or misdemeanor charge, county officials said.

Unable to pay rent, facing eviction and even deportation if they are issued felonies, they are demanding that the Department of Public Works and its Bureau of Street Services halt all ticketing and a reimbursement of permit fees that could be used to survive. And as they get to City Hall, they’re planning to demand the cancellation of rents and mortgages and cash assistance to undocumented workers.

They are also demanding a seat at the table as city and county officials devise plans to get the Los Angeles economy going again.

As it stands, food vendors and trucks already have fallen into a gray area under the local pandemic orders. Grocery stores and restructured versions of farmers markets are allowed to operate.

The demonstration comes a day after Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis and county Department of Public Health officials called for street food vendors to stop operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and offered resources to those who have been financially affected.

Many of the unlicensed food trucks that continue to operate throughout the county have not been requiring patrons to observe social distancing, she said. Social distancing is defined by the county as maintaining six feet between people, and patrons of licensed food trucks are also not allowed to hang out at the truck or gather in large groups.

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