Academic journal article Cityscape

The Critical Role of Street Vendor Organizations in Relocating Street Vendors into Public Markets: The Case of Hsinchu City, Taiwan

Academic journal article Cityscape

The Critical Role of Street Vendor Organizations in Relocating Street Vendors into Public Markets: The Case of Hsinchu City, Taiwan

Article excerpt

Introduction

Street vending is a global urban phenomenon in both the east and the west (Ball, 2002; Bhowmik, 2005; Cross, 2000; Roever, 2006). Conflict and negotiation between street vendors and city governments take place in every major city around the world, and numerous laws and municipal ordinances are regularly devised to regulate street vendors (Brown, 2006; Cross and Morales, 2007; Kim, 2012). The most common ways city governments regulate street vendors include (1) limiting the number of vendors through licenses or permits, (2) designating public spaces such as streetvending zones, and (3) relocating vendors into public market buildings (Garnett, 1995; 2009). Of these strategies, the effort to move vendors off the street and into market halls and buildings involves more significant public investment and is more complex in its attempt to formalize spaces for vendors. Often, implementation has been problematic because the spatial locations and arrangements are not economically feasible for vendors' livelihoods (Morales and Kettles, 2009). How to spatially manage street vending is a vexing conundrum for many cities around the world.

This article offers the case study of the Taiwanese city of Hsinchu to analyze the reasons why the municipal government in one instance was able to successfully relocate street vendors into a new thriving public market building, the Zhu Lian (ZL) market, but in another instance was unable to replicate this success with the Guan Dong (GD) market project.

In both cases, Hsinchu City worked through the institution of the street vendor organization. The role of vendor organizations is not well studied in the vending policy literature when hypothesizing the problems of previous attempts to manage street vendors through the formalization of public markets. This study focuses on them in order to find what role they may have played in the successful ZL public market case. Then, the comparative GD public market case, in which the city government tried to replicate its success with the ZL market, provides further insights about both the necessary and sufficient conditions that are needed.

Review of the Literature

Street vendors usually develop a sense of entitlement to the space in the city they use to vend, especially if they have been allowed to use the space regularly for a long time. Whether through tacit condoning or an impracticality to evict, the status quo that is built with neighbors and customers helps to socially construct this entitlement. As a result, vendors usually have built social networks and figured out a way to make business profitable (Kim, 2015).

Meanwhile, street vending is viewed as a sign of poverty and underdevelopment by developmental states eager to grow the nation's economy and world standing. Vending's demise is considered a desirable sign of progress toward a more prosperous and developed urban environment. Although municipal governments sometimes may enjoy some success in progressing toward such an environment, street vendors are resilient because of the necessity for livelihood. The police may be able to stamp out street vendors in certain parts of the city, but the street vendors may simply move their business to other parts of the city where enforcement is less aggressive and proactive. Or vendors may wait until enforcement wanes and then return to their old places. Therefore, municipal governments have used another strategy-relocating street vendors to designated vending districts or public markets. Implementing such projects usually involves a long and difficult process of negotiating with vendors. In cities where the occasional off-street public markets have been built, many of those markets suffer high desertion rates and fail altogether. The following list describes the reasons for their failure.

1. Ill-conceived location. The new off-street market ideally should be highly visible to customers and be easily accessible. Appropriate locations are usually difficult to find because of high urban land values and the preexisting densely built environment. …

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