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City Rising

The Informal Economy: De-Criminalizing Street Vending in Los Angeles

For decades, many immigrants — primarily women — have been criminalized for supporting their families with street vending income. 

Vazquez migrated to the U.S. from Colima, Mexico in 1994. After facing discrimination and lack of upward mobility in restaurant kitchens for years, she decided to return to street vending, something she has done since she was 8 years old. The entrepreneur-turned-activist quickly realized the challenges the street vending community faces in Los Angeles. More than 10,000 vendors, are criminalized for selling food on the street, making them vulnerable to harassment from police, customers and other business owners. Experts say employers in other sectors aren’t penalized as severely as street vendors are in the informal economy. 

Vazquez has led the Legalize Street Vending campaign’s 10-year fight to give vendors rights as small business owners. In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown legalized street vending in the state and Los Angeles City Council voted to legalize it in the city. As of today, however, the city has yet to issue permits to vendors.

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Full Episodes
Season
People marching during the Oakland teacher strike. | Image from "City Rising: Youth & Democracy"
Episode
56:39
City Rising

S3 E1: City Rising - Youth & Democracy

This third season of the “City Rising” series will demystify the role and work of youth organizations in California, demonstrating how young people are organizing their communities to participate in public policy and make lasting change.
Caridad - Los Angeles Street Vending Campaign - City Hall
Episode
56:52
City Rising

S2 E1: City Rising - The Informal Economy

California is the world's fifth largest economy — yet, hiding in plain sight are workers who labor off the books, unprotected and unregulated. Follow four California workers organizing to find pathways for legalization and protection.
Aerial view of Los Angeles
Episode
56:39
City Rising

S1 E1: City Rising - Gentrification and Displacement

City Rising shows how gentrification is deeply rooted in a history of discriminatory laws and practices in the United States.
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Episode
15:29
City Rising

E4: Impact

Laws that favor property owners and real estate developers have left many residents without a safety net to protect themselves from displacement.
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Episode
15:44
City Rising

E1: Legacy

From the displacement of Native peoples to the enforcement of Jim Crow, the history of in U.S. land policy and practice is a history of inequities.
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Episode
14:15
City Rising

E2: Resilience

Communities that have historically been disinvested, such as Boyle Heights, Santa Ana and East Oakland, have established rich community networks, informal economies and culture.
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Episode
13:52
City Rising

E3: Return to the Cities

Cities have become more entrepreneurial, seeking private investment that fuels large-scale gentrification.
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Episode
16:54
City Rising

E5: Mobilization

As more tenants face displacement, they are recognizing their power in numbers and creating a “renter nation” movement advocating for their right to property and equitable development.
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Episode
15:13
City Rising

E6: The Future

As more people realize they will never be homeowners, renters are thinking about their rights and refusing to yield decision-making to owners and developers.
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