Random Lengths News

Port Breaks Law Again With China Shipping SEIR


Life isn’t easy for street vendors in Los Angeles, and the vendors in San Pedro are no exception. Permits are hard to come by, and without them, they can be fined by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and even have their food and carts confiscate­d.

Victor Cortez, a street vendor who has worked in San Pedro, Long Beach and Harbor City, said that prior to the pandemic, the health department has confiscate­d his cart three to four times. Each time he has had to pay $1,400 to replace it. However, since the start of the pandemic, the health department has been more lenient, and has only fined him or confiscate­d the fruit he is selling and thrown it away.

Edin Amorado, an activist who helps street vendors, said that the process of securing a permit takes a few weeks. The problem is that it is only possible to secure a permit for a tamale cart.

“It’s just super hard for them,” Amorado said. “For example, if you have a corn mobile

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Goodbye Party:

The Pain, Joy and Achievemen­t of Josh Fischel’s Final Year p. 9 may not direct the port to carry out its obligation­s under CEQA in any particular way,” he wrote.

Homeowners represente­d by the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC) filed the initial China Shipping lawsuit in 2001 when the port approved the project without any EIR at all. They won on appeal in 2003, leading to the 2008 EIR. This lawsuit was notable because homeowners and activist organizati­ons were joined by both state and regional air pollution agencies — CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the AQMD (South Coast Air Quality Management District) — as well as the Attorney General.

“The forceful words from this judge’s decision underscore­d the port’s repeated failures to comply with environmen­tal laws or to respect the health impacts to residents from their industrial expansion,” said Janet Gunter, one of three local activists who spearheade­d the initial lawsuit.

“This decision is a victory for the port-adjacent communitie­s in Los Angeles,” said CARB Chair Liane

Randolph. “The Port of Los Angeles must finally require China Shipping to set in place the required measures they have been flouting, and take steps to reduce the air pollution they produce that is harming the residents of multiple AB 617 communitie­s.” Assembly bill 617 requires specific emission reduction protection­s for environmen­tal justice communitie­s, including Wilmington, Carson and west Long Beach.

“The judge understood the history of the port’s malfeasanc­e in this case and I think that his ruling reflected that,” NRDC senior attorney David Pettit told Random Lengths News.

“This is another in a long line of court rulings finding the port has violated laws designed to protect public health and the environmen­t,” said Joe Lyou, president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air, another community plaintiff represente­d by NRDC. “It says a lot about their continual prioritiza­tion of money over the health of their neighbors. It’s time for the city


stand, it’s impossible for you to get a permit right now.”

Amorado says this is because tamales are simple. They are already cooked; the cart is just meant to keep them warm. Other types of food can require preparatio­n onsite.

The other advantage the carts have is that they are fully mobile, they don’t have to be set up in one place. Some San Pedro residents are not happy with where street vendors have been setting up.

At the June 13 meeting of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborho­od Council, the board passed a resolution 14-0 asking for stricter enforcemen­t against street vendors.

“It’s not a problem so much with the vendors themselves, it’s where they choose to be,” said Melanie Labrecque, chair of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborho­od Council’s public safety committee.

Labrecque said there was a vendor who was selling on private property.

“It’s on somebody’s yard, and it’s in the red zone,” Labrecque said. “So, it makes it very unsafe for the cars to stop there.”

Labrecque said they could cause an accident, especially if cars are lined up. Officer Chris Eick of the Los Angeles Police Department Harbor Division said that his department might try to work with the vendors to find them a better spot when he spoke at the June 23 meeting of the Northwest San Pedro Neighborho­od Council’s public safety committee.

“[I’ll] say hey, I looked around, and there’s a spot over here,” Eick said. “It’s got a huge sidewalk, it’s got a lot of space, you’ll get a lot of customers. Maybe you can go over there. So not just tell them no, but tell them hey, try over here, there’s more space, you won’t have any issues from us or anybody else, and people can park, and there’s no safety issues.”

Cortez said it is difficult to choose a location, as he never knows where he will sell the most product. He constantly thinks of the best place to sell, as he does not want to throw any of the food away.

Eick said that his department will assist the health department when they go to enforce permits.

“They need a permit from the city to vend, and they need a health department permit to sell food,” Eick said. “We aren’t really involved, per se, we are more there for security purposes for the health workers.”

Eick said the police and the health department workers go to places where they have heard complaints and throw away the vendors’ food. Sometimes they do not fine the vendors because they do not have identifica­tion on them. Eick said his goal is to work with the health department more often, and bust the vendors several days in a row.

“Because if you do it once, and then they don’t see you again for a long time, then they’re just going to start setting back up and doing the same thing all over again,” Eick said.

Cortez said that when health department employees throw away all his food, he feels like crying, as he has been selling for many hours under the hot sun when they take away all his food. He has been fined up to $470 and can spend from $250 to $300 every day on the fruit he sells.

Melissa Arechiga, an activist and one of the founders of Buried Under the Blue, said that the police should have more compassion for the vendors.

“That costs money, when they take it and throw it away,” Arechiga said. “At least, if you don’t want them to sell, at least give them the opportunit­y to eat, take their stuff and leave, instead of confiscati­ng it and then just throwing it in the trash. We have so many people that are hungry, and products costing so much. That’s just wasteful, not just to the person, but to our whole environmen­t.”

Juan and Luz Aguilar, a married couple that sell tamales in San Pedro, said they have not had trouble with the police or the health department. In fact, the police have even bought from them before. However, on June 8, Juan was harassed by an older white man who yelled racial slurs at him and kicked his cart.

Juan recorded the incident, and posted it on TikTok, where it got more than 2 million views. In response, activists, including Arechiga, organized a sell-out for Juan on June 11, where he sold 1,500 tamales in two hours.

Juan filed a police report for the incident, but not much has come from it.

“We went to the police department, but they said because there was no physical damage, there was nothing that can really be done,” Luz said. “At this point, it’s kind of like, well, if you see the man again, call us.”

The difficulty of getting a permit

Cortez does not have a permit because the county asks for a lot of documents from him that he does not have. He is not alone.

According to Civil Eats, only 204 out of about 10,000 vendors in the City of Los Angeles have permits. A study from UCLA said that part of the reason for this is the prerequisi­te that vendors must first have a license from the health department, which requires them to follow rules in the state’s Food Retail Code. It requires things like a threebasin sink, and 20 gallons of water at all times. In addition, it also bans cutting fruit and reheating and hot-holding food. These rules were written with food trucks and catering in mind, before street vending was legalized in 2018.

Amorado said the language barrier is also an issue.

“The majority of vendors that speak Spanish, they’re also in fear of deportatio­n so they don’t bother with it, because they feel their informatio­n might be exposed,” Amorado said. “The ones that have tried, it’s close to impossible for them to get one.”

With pending state legislatio­n comes both hope and more worries — Senate bill 972 would make it easier for vendors to get permits and reduce fines, whereas Senate bill 1290 would criminaliz­e street vending further.

“It’s an oxymoron how these two bills were passed through the Senate,” Amorado said.

Amorado said that SB 1290 was written by someone who did not want to see street vending in California, and that if it passed, it could significan­tly reduce the practice.

“During the pandemic, there was a lot of brick-and-mortar owners that lost their business who are now street vendors, and they’re just trying to get back on their feet,” Amorado said.

 ?? ?? Victor Cortez works at his fruit stand in front of the DMV in San Pedro. Photo by Fabiola Esqueda
Victor Cortez works at his fruit stand in front of the DMV in San Pedro. Photo by Fabiola Esqueda
 ?? ?? Supporters of Juan Aguilar, a tamale vendor who was harassed with racial slurs, supported him at his sell-out event back in June. Photo by Raphael Richardson
Supporters of Juan Aguilar, a tamale vendor who was harassed with racial slurs, supported him at his sell-out event back in June. Photo by Raphael Richardson

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