New California senate bill is a victory for street-food vendors

A more accessible food vendor bill


Nancy Rodriguez Bonilla

Sacramento street vendor Silvia Perez poses in front of the fruit cart she helps run on Tuesday Oct. 4, 2022. Perez said she thinks street vendors now feel more protected with the passing of Senate Bill 972.

Nancy Rodriguez Bonilla

Gov. Gavin Newson signed Senate Bill 972 on Friday, Sept. 23, making it easier for street vendors to obtain permits. The bill is a revision of the California Retail Food Code which kept some street vendors, a cultural staple in many areas, from obtaining food vending permits. 

The California Retail Food Code was written when food vending was banned across the state and specifically asked businesses to meet certain requirements, such as having a three-sink compartment. 

For sidewalk vendors, this was unattainable because of the size and weight limits on their food carts.

SB 972 was introduced by Democratic Sen. Lena A. Gonzalez in February of 2022. According to Gonzalez’s webpage, the bill will support the street vendors that have become an integral part of California’s culture and diversity.

The amendment builds upon Senate Bill 946, also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, that legalized street vending in 2018, with the requirement that food vendors had to comply with Cal Code to obtain a vending permit.

Gonzalez faced some pushback from community members of areas where street vendors are often located. Randall Scott, executive director of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District in San Francisco, expressed these fears in a CalMatters article published in August.

He wrote that the bill removed too many enforcement tools for public safety and that cases of public endangerment could rise if the bill was not adjusted. 

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, the co-author of SB 972, said the Cal Code previously only catered towards restaurants and food trucks. These rules were almost impossible for smaller businesses like ice cream carts or fruit stands to comply with. The new bill only removes those barriers and still upholds public health and safety standards, according to Sen. Durazo. 

Sac State second-year undeclared student Sara Trujillo sits in an American River Courtyard study room on Oct. 4, 2022. Trujillo spoke about her experience with a local street vendor from her apartment complex.
(Nancy Rodriguez Bonilla)

Sara Trujillo, a second-year undeclared student at Sac State, shared her experience with a local street vendor who frequents her apartment complex. 

“I really like the paletero,” Trujillo said, “He talks to me and asks how school is going. He’s really sweet.”

Dominic Chandler, a health science major at Sac State, said he supports SB 972 because it’s often the only source of income these vendors can secure. 

Second-year health science major Dominic Chandler stands by Mendocino Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Chandler said he supports SB 972 because street vending is a main source of income for families. (Nancy Rodriguez Bonilla)

“Especially immigrants who don’t have a work permit or anything like that,” Chandler said. “It’s great for them to earn money for their families.” 

Tatiana Juarez, a first-year undeclared student at Sac State, said she recognizes that a lot of vendors face struggles, such as making enough money.

“That’s their job and their main source of income for their families,” Juarez said. “It’s really good that it’s easier for them to get their permits… they’re not gonna feel like just one random day they can get everything taken away from them.”

Sac State first-year undeclared student Tatiana Juarez stands in front of Mendocino Hall on Monday Oct. 10, 2022. Juarez said Senate Bill 972 will bring more job security for street vendors. (Nancy Rodriguez Bonilla)

Silvia Perez is a local Sacramento street vendor who helps run a fruit cart. Perez said, in her home country, street vendors were allowed to all gather in one area to do business. They were given a space to sell, and she said she would like to see something similar to that here. 

“I think that now [after the new bill], one feels more protected,” Perez said.

Street vendors have often been the targets of attacks and harassment. An issue heavily talked about on social media as videos of street vendors being mistreated go viral.

Perez said she had heard stories of discrimination from her previous boss and believes the bill will bring lots of benefits to street vendors.