streetvending in L.A.

“How does street vending fit in the contemporary city?” is the opening question of Kenny Cupers’ research about informal stalls throughout Los Angeles: Street Vending as Everyday Urbanism [2005]. With his statement, he supports this practice as an implemented way of urban dynamics; not to be forbidden, but highly enhanced. When formal facilities do not arrive in time, Pop-up vendors have almost the magic capacity of instantly meeting (eating, drinking, shopping…) needs of that site. They detect everyday social demands and provide a solution, which at the same time allows them to earn a living more easily in the megacity struggle.

“By investigating the public perceptions, discourse and political institutions that illegalize, regulate and enforce street vendors in Los Angeles, the project sheds light on the particular urbanism that street vending generates. Street vending is a pervasive element of the everyday urban landscape of Los Angeles. […] (I)t involves an even greater variety of different actors, with divergent backgrounds and personal motivations; and it can take place using a variety of “infrastructures” – from back pockets, baskets, and bags, to carts, cars, and trucks. In Los Angeles, despite the city’s general prohibition on street vending, the practice has been growing conspicuously over the last few decades, encouraged by the Latin-American immigration since the 1980s. This situation has led a particular group of people to occupy the main stage of the public debate: recent Latino immigrants, some of which are undocumented and for whom vending is a crucial economic activity. These vendors mainly sell fresh vegetables, homemade foods and soda drinks from movable carts, and tend to be situated in particular areas in the city, like downtown, East LA, and East Hollywood. Focusing on this group, the project research has demonstrated how vendors’ mobility allows them to participate in urban life – as migrants, laborers and citizens – and how its contested meanings legitimize prohibition and shape attempts to legalize vending. It has shown ultimately how street vending constitutes a spatial politics in which mobility forms the main source of agency, contestation and site of intervention for governance.”

[all images> by Kenny Cupers]


  1. tsUmOmO

    Very interesting. On the other side of the world, street vending in Shanghai is a massive market: commercial nomads who know what you need, when you need it, and where to give it to you. Heavi breackfast in the morning, some fruit at mid-day, a good bowl of noodles for dinner or gloves in a cold morning; all of them just around the corner, almost every corner. They make a daily migration all around the city which deserves its own study. Not to talk about the stalls…

  2. Anna

    here is an interesting graphical guide to staying legal as a street vendor in NYC:

    • daniel

      thanks, anna! very nice project!

  3. Thanks for publishing this! K

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