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San Diego proposes new street vendor law, immigration advocates concerned

The city of San Diego is considering a new law to regulate street vendors. Immigration advocates are worried about how the proposed measures will affect the livelihoods of families who depend on the income.

Street vending became legal under a 2018 state law aimed at encouraging a new class of small entrepreneurs among California’s low-income residents.

But in San Diego, the journey to legally selling goods from a public park or on the street is not yet complete.

In the city’s latest proposal on sidewalk vending, there would be new limits on street vendors, from where they operate, to the months they can do business.

RELATED: San Diego Considers Crackdown On Street Vendors

It includes limits to street vending in some communities during summer months, and year-round in certain parts of popular tourist areas, like the Gaslamp Quarter.

“For us, street vending is a matter of economic equality, of equity, for these people,” said Dulce Garcia, executive director of the nonprofit organization Border Angels.

She said many immigrant families survived the pandemic by turning to street vending.

“This is an issue that we know disproportionately affects Black and brown communities. And even more vulnerable within that subsection is our undocumented community,” Garcia said.

Gloria Robles is a street vendor sells food like tamales and pozole as part of her business that often operates in City Heights.

Robles has lived in San Diego for over two decades but turned to street vending in 2019.

“And on Saturdays, Sundays we go to the farmers market to recover a little (money) because the pandemic has affected business a lot, so we want to continue where we can,” she said over the phone in Spanish.

READ: Community Organizers Are Providing Support For Street Vendors, Following Killing Of Vendor

While some brick and mortar merchants are concerned about the proliferation of street vendors, Garcia said they have a different clientele.

“We hear that they are afraid of the competition, but the people that go to these very expensive restaurants are not the same people that are buying from the hot dog stands, from the tamales lady. So it’s a different market, it really isn't competition,” she said.

Garcia added that the language being used to justify the removal of street vendors is problematic.

The proposed legislation will be discussed on Wednesday by the San Diego City Council’s economic development committee. If approved, it will go before the full council on March 1.