Council wants clarity on who is behind rise in street vendors before moving ahead on regulations

Are corporations employing the people who serve food from carts and stands and paying them sub-par wages? City leaders want questions answered before considering regulations.
Further regulation of street vendors in Palm Springs is in the works. But first, city officials want to know how many are truly local.

City officials agreed Monday that regulations are needed to ensure food from street vendors is safe, that they allow room for safe passage on sidewalks, and that odors and smoke from their mobile kitchens are kept to a minimum. But a larger question surfaced during discussion of the issue.

Driving the news: The Palm Springs City Council took no action after reviewing a staff report recommending regulations aimed at an increasing number of street vendors offering tacos, fruit, and other items at pop-up food stands and carts throughout the city. They did, however, express concern about who might own the businesses behind the vendors.

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What they’re saying: “I am very concerned that the explosion we have seen of food vending is not coming from locals who are trying to get a foothold into entrepreneurship, but are individuals working for someone else. Given how quickly this industry has exploded in our city, I find myself struggling to believe that it was suddenly organically grown from individuals.” — Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton

At issue: Middleton and others on the council said the city needs to know whether corporations are employing the vendors, sending them into the city, and paying them sub-par wages before any talk of regulating their operations can continue.

  • “I don’t know what the facts are yet, and I want to understand the facts before we proceed,” Middleton said. “We need more time to know exactly who it is we are interacting with.”

Yes, but: Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner agreed that discussions with the vendors are overdue but added that the increase in their numbers might be attributable to organizing efforts by activists looking to help local men and women enter the ranks of small business owners.

  • “I don’t want to get rid of these businesses,” Garner said, “and I want to make sure we are actually supporting local people, and we are not just shutting it down.”

Next steps: While the Council took no action Monday, councilmembers agreed that regulations to address health and safety issues identified by the community were in order. Also on the table could be a requirement that street vendors acquire and display business licenses, so the public will know who owns their equipment and benefits most from their labor.

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