California Legislature could boost night markets

People at a night market in Taipei, Taiwan on June 29, 2023. Photo by Chiang Ying-ying, AP Photo

From CalMatters’ politics/California Divide intern Rya Jetha:

Have you ever enjoyed a night market in East Asia? Or hoped to experience the delicious food and lively atmosphere of one? Good news: There may be many more night markets coming soon to California.

A new bill unveiled Monday is trying to pave the way for night markets and farmers’ markets by cutting red tape and costs. Currently, the California Department of Public Health does not have a streamlined permitting process for regularly occurring market events.

Assembly Bill 441 would change that by creating a dedicated permit, Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney said Monday in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, where a new night market will open Sept. 15.

“There’s no constituency in California calling for more red tape and paperwork,” said Haney. “Part of bringing culture and business back into our downtown means removing barriers and cutting through unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Haney was joined by San Francisco Supervisor Joel Engardio, who was inspired to bring night markets to the Bay Area after a trip to Taipei, a city famous for its night markets.

“As we address the serious issues facing San Francisco, a night market reminds us why our city is worth fighting for by creating more joy,” said Engardio. “It also brings people together, makes streets safer, and helps small businesses.”

Night markets are not unheard of in California: 626 Night Market, the largest Asia-inspired night market festival in the United States, began in the San Gabriel Valley in 2012. The festival now takes place across California during the summer, boasting hundreds of food vendors, stores, games and live shows.

This may seem like an odd time to announce a new bill, considering the Legislature went on a month-long break Friday. In its past life, the subject of AB 441 was an earned income tax credit. However, Haney withdrew the bill from committee in April. The bill analysis said it could result in a revenue loss of millions of dollars at a time when California has a budget deficit of more than $30 billion.

Lawmakers are limited in how many bills they can introduce — for the Assembly, it’s 50 for the session — so sometimes resort to the controversial “gut and amend” process, whereby they gut a bill and use it as a vehicle for new legislation. In this case, instead of a bill to help poorer families, Haney is substituting a proposal to boost culture and cities.

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