Council Decriminalizes Street Vending, While Efforts to Avoid Large Rent Increase are Blocked

At its most recent Legislative Meeting, the Council again kept the legislative process in motion while simultaneously managing the seasonal heavy lift of holding not one but two oversight hearings (performance and budget) on every agency in the District government.

Building on action at its March meeting, the Council took its second and final vote on an umbrella vending reform measure. That bill would decriminalize street vending, set rules for the creation of sidewalk vending zones, establish one such zone in Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant, and create an amnesty program for past vending citation fees if a vendor participates in the new vending regime.

Based on questions raised by some councilmembers at the prior Legislative Meeting, the version approved at this subsequent meeting made two substantive changes. First, it clarified the circumstances and methods to be used in cases of detention of unapproved vendors and those who will not identify themselves. And second, whereas the prior version of the measure rewrote the rules for the entire “cottage food” sector (comprised of sellers of for-sale food made in home kitchens), the revised version creates a new license class exclusively for street vendors who prepare their food in such a setting. With those adjustments made the measure passed unanimously on its second vote.

Two measures that were scheduled to see action at the most recent meeting did not advance. One was a proposed emergency bill intended to replace a pending nearly ten percent rent increase for rent-controlled apartments with a more moderate Consumer Price Index-based bump. This bill was found not to be eligible for consideration by the Council because of the small cost the implementation of the measure would have required. For an emergency measure to be considered by the Council, it must be found to have no cost, or to have a cost which the implementing agency agrees to harmlessly absorb. While a fiscal impact statement found that a single staffer could implement the bill, the agency in question said it had no excess staff capacity, despite having funded but unfilled vacancies.

The second measure that was considered but did not advance was another proposed emergency bill that was meant to limit food delivery apps’ ability to unduly downgrade a non-premium payment restaurant’s placement in search results. The consideration of this measure was postponed until the Council’s next Legislative Meeting.

Measures approved at the most recent Legislative Meeting included:

  • an emergency bill to clarify eligibility and requirements for Office of Migrant Services programs, and immigrant access to homeless services
  • an emergency bill to allow health and human services agencies to share data with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to allow for better analysis of public safety, criminal justice, and gun violence
  • an emergency amendment to recent medical marijuana expansion legislation that, among other things, puts into place a deadline (May 1) by which existing cultivation centers and dispensaries must file their applications to convert their status
  • an emergency bill to allow the renovation of four derelict Anacostia properties, already underway, to proceed past its prior sunset deadline
  • an emergency bill, building on previous legislation that provided government funds for renovations at the African American Civil War Memorial and Ben’s Chili Bowl, in order to cover cost increases that have occurred since both projects were originally funded
  • a Sense of the Council measure to encourage creation of a commission to oversee the District’s participation and programs as a part of the United States’ upcoming 250th anniversary celebrations in 2026

The Council’s next Legislative Meeting will be held on May 2.