What used to be a Metro station full of unlicensed street vendors is now an official market.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has partnered with street vendors to create a place next to MacArthur Park Station where they can sell their goods. The market will have a one-year pilot window to determine whether or not it will be successful and sustainable.
Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said that although the agency supports the city's street vendors, not having an official market can be inconvenient, creating dirtier stations and safety concerns surrounding the sale of illegal goods. However, he said the new partnership is a win-win situation.
"This is the first-of-its-kind program in our system," Sotero said. "We're going to be looking at it very closely and if it proves successful, we can consider applying it to other parts of the Metro system. Our local street vendors are really hard-working entrepreneurs, and they are going to get a dedicated space to sell their items."
Some goals of the market include minimizing disorder, reducing crime and ensuring the safe boarding of passengers in the station. Metro has included a series of benefits for street vendors to incentivize their participation in the program, like providing the vendors with port-a-potties and allowing the sale of packaged food items in the space (so long as the vendors have a Department of Health Inspection permit). According to Sotero, this will make the station a more enjoyable place for shopping and eating locally.
Oscar Rogel, a member of the supervising committee, said it took them a long time to get the project approved. After the committee wrote its proposal, it worked with City Hall and Metro to make it a reality.
"A lot of people didn't have faith," Rogel said. "It was only a few of us who had the faith that this is going to happen. We proved them wrong."
Rogel said the market's biggest success will be its protections for street vendors, who can no longer be ticketed for vending. Although street vending in Los Angeles was decriminalized in February, it remains punishable by citation. Rogel said that, as a result of the market, vendors now feel more secure, knowing they are working legally and that won't be prosecuted.
There are restrictions for selling within the market: vendors cannot sell stolen or illegal items, always need to keep their tables full and need to be present seven days a week. Those who cannot comply with the standards will be immediately removed and replaced with vendors from a waiting list.
Street vendor Elmore Dingo said the market has increased his profits of lavender tea. Before the market, he used to sell his produce via word of mouth and through his website. But since the market opened, he's been able make personal connections with clients and convince potential clients of the benefits of his products by speaking with them face-to-face.
"It's a groundbreaking opportunity for the area," Dingo said. "This opportunity came for us to be in an open square, an open market place and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Because the market is in its early stages, it has not yet solved the entire street-vending problem, and many sellers remain lined up along the sidewalk. However, market planners are working with the city and county of Los Angeles to provide additional station security to regulate vending and to clear out those who are not on the official list of vendors.
Reach Staff Reporter Miranda Mazariegos here. Staff Reporter Aden MacMillan contributed reporting for this story.