From the bustling BART station on 24th and Mission, you can already hear the music. Just 350 feet away, a live DJ is blaring “Mambo Lupita” at the corner of a fenced-in, outdoor parking lot, where more than a dozen street vendors are stationed. One vendor sells flowers. Another sells bucket hats and plush toys. Another, jewelry.

For the past two Saturdays, La Placita, now the only city-sanctioned site for displaced Mission street vendors to sell, has been booming — or trying to. The lively atmosphere is a stark change from previous months, when only about three to five street vendors quietly occupied the spacious lot.

“It’s much better now,” said Javier Ortiz, who sells flowers. He says the live music and increased number of vendors makes the site more appealing to customers. “Now, many more people come. It’s a different atmosphere and it’s more beautiful.”

La Placita is one of two sites that were opened after San Francisco issued a vending ban late November to combat the illegal selling of stolen goods along Mission Street. The ban displaced nearly 140 permitted vendors from the highly-trafficked street, causing many vendors to go from earning several hundred dollars a day to single-digit earnings at the new vending sites.

Juana Badillo said her sales improved after La Placita became the only sanctioned site for displaced Mission street vendors to sell merchandise in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Erika Carlos

By mid-April, only a handful of vendors remained at either La Placita or El Tiangue, the other sanctioned site. El Tiangue, an indoor storefront at Mission Street near 18th, closed on April 21, 2024, marking a “grand re-opening” for La Placita, which is now hosting a group of about twenty street vendors. Along with Calle 24, the nonprofit that manages the site, Mission street vendors are now doing what they can to make their only vending alternative work.

“I see potential in this place,” said Sofia Lopez, who has been selling clothes and accessories at La Placita since December. From selling nothing, Lopez said she’s now making between $40 to $50 a day. “I think that later, this place is going to be a blessing for many vendors,” said Lopez. “Things don’t happen overnight.”

Ana Hernandez, a vendor who moved from El Tiangue to La Placita, was not as optimistic. “I’m here for the meantime,” said Hernandez. On her first Saturday at La Placita, her sales improved, but ultimately made less than $100. She still prefers her original spot on Mission Street, where she would regularly earn $300 to $400 a day. “It’s the streets where there’s business … If they are definitely not going to open [Mission Street], we will have to find another street.”

Her husband Rodrigo Lopez, who is also a La Placita newcomer, is the president of the Mission Street Vendors Association. “I don’t know if [La Placita] will work or not, it’s too early,” said Lopez. “It’s going to take time for people to know us, to know what is here, and to be able to do business.”

Regardless of whether or not La Placita starts luring more clientele, Lopez says most street vendors similarly hope to return to bustling-but-troubled Mission Street. “We are used to being on the street,” said Lopez. “[La Placita] may work, but not 100%.”

La Placita is now the only city-sanctioned site for displaced Mission street vendors to sell merchandise in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Erika Carlos