This food cart designed by a former street vendor follows strict Los Angeles County rules for legal sale.

While California legalized street vending a few years ago, it’s difficult for food vendors to comply with strict LA County Health Department rules.

A major difficulty was the design of the carriage. The county requires street vendors to use a cart with four sinks and a refrigeration system. It’s too expensive and clunky for most providers.

Without a cart that meets the requirements, vendors cannot obtain permits from the health department, so many of them operate without permits and live in fear of being caught in a city or county sweep.

Listen: What’s next for street vendors?

Richard Gomez wants to change that. The former street vendor and food truck engineer designed a tamal cart that meets county sanitary requirements and the cost starts at around $7,500.

Gomez’s design is the first to gain official approval. This gives vendors hope that the county will license other carts that work for them. Our friends from L.A. Tacos and Capital and main co-published a great story about the process.

A detail shows some of the features of the cart.

Lyrical Kelkar from the advocacy group Inclusive Action wants the county to rethink other health rules, such as requiring fruit vendors to cut their food in a central kitchen.

“These kinds of systems – we need to redesign them to make sure providers are really included in this economy,” Kelkar says.

Kelkar says outdoor dining is an example of how local governments can support restaurants, especially during the pandemic, and he wants officials to extend the same kind of support to street vendors.

Have a food story idea you’d like to see on LAist?

Send it to us. We cannot answer all the questions we receive, but we will try to help you. We would love to hear from you.