Those bacon-wrapped hot dogs outside the club, that fruit from a cart on the corner, the ice cream from the bell-ringing pusher down the block? They're all illegal, which as the great Jonathan Gold might tell you, is probably the best kind of food anyway. Edibles sold on sidewalks in L.A. are verboten, no matter how good they taste.
The thing is, cart-based street food in this most Mexican of American cities is a way of life, a part of our culture. The bacon-wrapped hot dog is said to be the official hot dog of L.A. Now there's an effort at City Hall to legalize it, and the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign is cheering it on:
The group will stage a rally today from 3 to 8 p.m. outside the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 at 630 Shatto Place in Koreatown to support the proposal by Councilman Jose Huizar to legitimize and legalize street food in L.A.
The organization says in a statement:
With an estimate of over 10,000 vendors currently operating within the county of Los Angeles, the legalization of street vending can provide an opportunity for long-term job creation, an increase in healthy food options for low-income neighborhoods, improved public safety, and a valuable asset to urban life in Los Angeles.
Group spokeswoman Isela C. Gracian told us the street chefs want three things out of the ordinance:
A push for healthy food in the barrios where street vendors are popular. A "smooth process" for permitting vendors. And detente with some of the brick-and-mortar restaurants that have been opposed to the carts in the past.
Legalization won't see the light of day until at least 2014: The City Council voted recently to seek input from the vendors and city lawyers to come up with a draft of rules that would apply to them. That process is expected to take at least 90 days.
One idea: Street vendors might be limited to certain areas, such as MacArthur Park, where they're already popular, Gracian said.
On top of the coming city rules, street vendors will have to contend with the L.A. County Department of Public Health, which mandates, for example, that food trucks have to be tied to establishments with working restrooms so that food handlers can wash up regularly.
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Gracian said she expects that the rule also will apply to street food vendors.
That's one of the pieces we've been talking to folks about. Anybody selling food would need to meet public health department regulations.
Maybe that's bad news for the street food critic, but it's one small step for mankind.