Code Enforcement Cracks Down on Unlicensed Food Vendors

SACRAMENTO -- A code enforcement raid on food sold streetside in Sacramento led to food being dumped. Tables, carts and coolers were confiscated and loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck and taken away.

"For me, it's my living because I'm jobless. Technically I should be out on the streets begging for money, but I'd rather do this," said food vendor Dorothy Magrum.

Magrum was there that day selling tamales, corn on the cob and horchata. She says it was all taken, and she hasn't been able to get it back.

"If we didn't do some kind of enforcement, and someone was to get ill, seriously ill and potentially die, then we'd probably be having a different conversation. It'd be like 'Carl, where were you when these folks or these kids consumed these items?'" said Carl Simpson with the city of Sacramento.

Simpson is the chief of code enforcement for the city of Sacramento. He says the raid was spurred by complaints his office received, and that the group of vendors had gotten so big it was blocking the sidewalk and encroaching on the street.

They gather, almost every Sunday, outside our Lady of Guadalupe Church near Southside Park.

"I don't think that it's unsafe. Most of the people that go and buy from the vendors are regular consumers. They've been able to create a friendship -- a community," said Fatima Garcia with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

And that community of vendors is largely made up of Mexican immigrants and their children, according to the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.

They argue that these are people trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and that the city makes it impossible for them to get the proper permits.
Magrum says she tried

"You know what they did? They laughed at us and said that we have to have a restaurant, and since we don't have a restaurant, we don't get any license. And that's an embarrassment, and we go in this big, huge loop," Magrum said.

"Code enforcement is the enforcer. The actual finance and revenue department are the ones who actually issue those permits, and that's something I really couldn't answer, what the specifics are," Simpson said.

When Simpson was asked if he thought that would be confusing to people who don't speak English as a first language, he said:

"I can understand that. But I think the appropriate venue would be to go through business compliance and try to get those questions answered instead of just going out and setting up shop," he said.

The very next Sunday, some of the food sellers were out again, in the place, and in the same position... not permitted, not knowing when they'll be raided again.

City Memo Regarding Food Vendors on Scribd