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Riverside must embrace street vendors, they are part of the fabric of our community

Riverside must embrace street vendors, they are part of the fabric of our community

When did we begin creating barriers for entrepreneurs?

While the United States continues to be the land of opportunity, the city of Riverside should be no exception.  Regardless of political sentiment and polarization, everyone who has ever purchased a fruit cup, hot dog, taco, or ice cream from a vendor should work towards increasing the opportunities of accessibility and business acumen of those behind the carts.

If you’ve lived in Riverside or any part of Southern California you’ve encountered a paletero, taquero, or any number of street vendors ready to fill our appetites. Whether our kids are playing in the yard or we are watching a little league game, we can always hear them coming. These micro entrepreneurs’ unique bells, whistles, and songs give the signal to ready our spare change and prepare for their arrival.

Currently, the city ordinance when it comes to street vendors leaves too much to interpretation.  Instead of having a clear process where vendors can meet requirements, it leaves it up to the permitting officer to be “reasonably satisfied” — leaving this section ambiguous leaves us open to liability and issues of bias. The overall process to obtain a permit is confusing and limited, this pushes street vendors away from obtaining a permit.

This is not the right approach. Removing barriers is critical to ensure a balanced playing field and important if we are to truly be the modern and inclusive city we are working towards.

We want to make sure that all Riverside residents can get a proper permit and follow protocols such as respecting accessibility on sidewalks. We want to minimize the barriers and challenges in order to allow individuals with ITIN numbers and other forms of ID to be able to get a permit and safely continue their businesses without being cited and harassed. We have several individuals with work permits, DACA recipients, and others who want to work and contribute to our local economy – we need to give them equal opportunities to work and thrive.

We are a city that is diverse and inclusive and it is crucial that our policies reflect our values.  We want to be a model for surrounding cities for economic growth, innovation, and opportunities for all.  We envision a community that embraces entrepreneurship for all communities and all levels of income, not just those with massive capital and resources.

We have an opportunity to include those that have been marginalized for far too long.  The changes that are being proposed are aligned with our residents’ request to properly include our street vendors as they represent an expression of culture and an element of community safety.

This shouldn’t be a controversial conversation as the county has been at the forefront of change for home cooks.  These small business owners are growing and able to contribute to the economy while gaining income.  Now is the time to continue the support for street vendors through inclusive policies that provide support and innovation to entrepreneurs who continue to grow their businesses while contributing back to the city’s economy.  We need policymakers, the community, and other businesses to advocate for these policies.

Street vendors are homeowners, taxpayers, they contribute to our local economy and they equally have the right to provide for their families. Our city already benefits from this, imagine how our community will thrive and prosper if we give enough people the opportunity to do so. Let’s work together and ensure our beautiful city is a hub for entrepreneurship and provides equal opportunities for everyone willing to work hard and make an honest living.

Gaby Plascencia is a Riverside City Councilmember representing Ward 5. Elizabeth Ayala is a resident of the city of Riverside in Ward 1.


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