By DAVE SCHWAB
On March 1, San Diego City Council voted 8-1 to pass an ordinance to regulate sidewalk vending and establish penalties for non-compliance.
“Many street vendors are mom-and-pop businesses with lots of immigrants, new Americans, and people of color,” said District 8 Councilmember Vivian Moreno who dissented. “Unfortunately, the ordinance is overly broad and not specific enough. It goes beyond what is required by SB 946. I’m also concerned about there being uneven enforcement, where vendors would be heavily enforced in some areas, while in some areas they would not be.”
SB 946 established parameters for the local regulation of sidewalk vendors. Its intent was to decriminalize sidewalk vending by limiting municipalities to penalizing violations with administrative citations rather than criminal citations, in turn promoting entrepreneurship and economic success for sidewalk vendors.
Authored by District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell’s office, the new City ordinance will take effect 30 days after final passage by the City Council. All sidewalk vendors will have until June 1 to either cease vending activity or comply with the ordinance’s provisions.
“We have an ordinance that brings the City into compliance with SB 946 that went into effect in 2019 and brings vendors into the formal economy,” said Campbell. “This ordinance sets requirements and provides legal clarity for vendors who want to abide by the rules and have successful businesses while protecting public health, safety, and public spaces.”
“SB 946 decriminalized sidewalk vending and established requirements for local regions to regulate them,” Campbell’s chief-of-staff Venus Molina told the Council. “The [new] ordinance applies to special events, swap meets, farmers markets, and shoreline parks. These regulations must be directly related to public health, safety, or welfare. There are distance requirements between vendors and a prohibition of vending in high-traffic pedestrian areas. Vendors must obtain a vending permit. No insurance is required and the permit would be renewed annually.”
Enforcement of the new sidewalk vending ordinance calls for warnings and referrals on the first offense, $200 fines for vendors without permits and $500 for those with permits for a second offense, $500 fines for vendors without permits, and $1,000 for those with permits for a third offense and $500 fines and/or impoundment of vending equipment for subsequent violations for those without vending permits and $1,000 fines and/or equipment impoundment for vendors with permits.
Mission Beach Town Council President Larry Webb asked the Council not to require the ordinance to be approved by the California Coastal Commission claiming that would “greatly increase the number of sidewalk vendors that we already have in Mission Beach blocking public access to the beach. Let’s give everyone in San Diego their beach access back.”
“For several years, Mission Beach has been completely overrun by sidewalk vendors trampling on the natural beauty of the beach area,” said Mission Beach beach rentals owner Matt Gardner and past MBTC president, who also complained of vendors not paying taxes like traditional businesses. “This is a very welcome and much-needed ordinance.”
“Today’s action is an important step in establishing sensible rules and regulations and allows us to comply with SB 946 and help those who want to become entrepreneurs,” said Campbell before moving passage of the sidewalk vending ordinance.
“This ordinance affects our neighborhoods for micro-businesses and our brick and mortars and this is a challenging thing to negotiate while allowing microbusinesses to safely flourish,” said District 1 Councilmember Joe LaCava. “We’re achieving multiple goals in decriminalizing sidewalk vending while lowering barriers to small businesses operating and taking ownership and laying the groundwork for successful growth. Resolving this issue has been a priority for my district.”