Riverside, CA

Opinion: City Council Debate Over Street Vendors in Riverside

Lashaun Turner

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JADED: Journalism with a Touch of Shade--Lashaun Turner--

After pushback at a recent City Council meeting, a decision on a proposal spirited by Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plasencia which included removing the existing mandate to provide a Social Security number when applying for a permit, has been postponed for 2 months.

I think it’s about time that we bring them into our formal economy. They are a part of our community,” she said. “They are here --Mayor Pro Tem Gaby Plascencia

I’ve lived in California all my life, and particularly in the Inland Empire, Riverside area for 40 years. I would say it’s been in the past 10 -20 years as the demographic drastically changed, that a proliferation of street vendors has exploded.

In the rural unincorporated areas, it’s Bad! People just set up on other people’s vacant land, in neighborhoods, off major streets and thoroughfares, any and everywhere. I was so alarmed at the encroachment near relatives homes at one point a few years ago that I went to the City and asked if it was legal what they were doing?

I was informed that there is a process to obtain a vendor license etc. but I was also informed of the soft enforcement of those requirements.

So here is the problem as I see it. These taco trucks and food trucks popup anywhere. The traffic in and out to them is often impeding, endangering and obstructive to normal traffic flows. I have on at least 2 occasions been nearly hit by a car darting in and out of some food truck that plopped itself down at a busy intersection.

One day I came behind an accident on the infamous Cajalco Rd area in Perris, which is often lined with vendors (including those walking in the street selling flowers). Not sure of the cause but with a high probability, I’m guessing it had to have been secondary to the entrance and egress surrounding this row of food trucks on both sides of the street.

What happens is, people are passing by, and suddenly decide to stop, that’s one issue. Another, and a growing one, diesel trucks coming upon them deciding at the last minute to stop. I’ve witnessed this several times. Their sudden slowdowns and stops causing near miss collisions- all behind the abundance of street vendors allowed to dominate both sides of 2 lane streets.

My question is how do we bring them into the formal economy? Does that mean a new variant of tax Id’s and them paying taxes, and permits? Will their employees receive salary and benefits and pay into Social Security?

Because I can assure you the reason they are pop ups and not brick and mortars is to avoid identification, taxation and our current laws and ordinances. And let’s keep it really real, the majority of the vendors are undocumented.

Established businesses will be competing with a surge in vendors who don’t have the overhead costs that legal businesses have. It is unfair.

Those who think that vendors will have to be permitted and that Riverside will enforce raids and sweeps on the daily – I highly doubt it. I often see police pulled over at vendors that you know are not only undocumented but also do not have any permits. They don’t seem to care.

People pop open their trunks take a chair out and sit and sell fruit, food, arts and crafts, rugs and other items just out the trunk. I’m certain they do not have permits, lol. And there goes the neighborhood, littered with unregulated popups and swap meets.

There is a very big social cultural aspect to these pop ups as well. Often times at night the table and chairs come out, the music is played and they literally congregate, have outdoor bars and gatherings. Which then is a public nuisance and noise issue.

Also the public health aspect of these repurposed food trucks sitting out in dusty streets, no running water, no facilities, no food safety handling permits etc.- It’s just amazing that a Mayor would suggest legitimizing such a situation. And, if they do- be prepared to be even more inundated with vendors.

I have spoken to City leaders about this before and my suggestion would be to give the vendors one (1) area of the city to set up that has proper parking and traffic flow- a vendor island if you will.

Then make sure these people have proper refrigeration, water, facilities and make sure you collect all taxes just like any other business and that code enforcement removes those that don’t. Having them centrally located will help with enforcement.

And let me just say I’ve dealt with code enforcement before, they are severely lagging in responding to complaints so I seriously doubt the City will ensure that vendors are permitted- they don’t do it now. Some of these folks pop up after dark when they know there is nearly zero chance of any enforcement effort.

In California it seems when you become overrun with lawbreakers of any sort- the reaction of our local Government is to find a way to NOT enforce the rule of laws and ordinances on their own books- often times providing sanctuary and/or changing laws to accommodate and be more inclusive to rule breakers.

Incorporating people who have demonstrated they only partially play by the rules is a big NEGATIVE for tax payers. Our tax dollars are always subsidizing certain groups without any return on that investment, and very little say so by the taxpayer in most cases.

This is business not sociopolitical, with far reaching implications for our economy. When we as Californians are saying we need to prop up small businesses -I think collectively we mean legal ones.

I stand with legal businesses on this one.

This has solely been my JADED Opinion. You are welcome to yours in the comments below!

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Lashaun is a Journalist, Reporter, and Viral Content Creator covering Local Stories, Food, Crime, Politics, & Travel with NEWSBREAK since June 2021.- JADED: Journalism with a Touch of Shade is Lashaun's views and opinions on various trending topics. Lashaun aka Lady I.M.PRE$S is a former NBC/CNBC Affiliate KCAA Broadcaster for "Cali's BEST" Radio Show airing on 102.3FM & 106.5FM from 2016-2020. Lashaun has been in the Media & P.R field for over 11 years and has interviewed an estimated 20k Celebrities and Entrepreneurs. Lashaun also produced & hosted Blaze Indie L.A TV show on LA's Channel 36 from 2014-2016

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