San Diego’s sidewalk vending ordinance will change how, when and where street vendors can operate.
District 2 Council Member Jen Campell led the push for the new rules. She said they strike a balance of improving health and safety while still providing economic opportunities for the vendors.
“There became so many vendors and it became a problem of finding enough space for the public to enjoy the open spaces, the parks and the beaches,” Campbell said.
While the new rules and partial bans will be fully enforced in places like Balboa Park and in the Gaslamp District, there are going to be limits in San Diego’s beach communities.
That’s because the California Coastal Commission must review the ordinance before it can fully take effect in those areas.
As of June 20, the item hasn't made it on their agenda.
That worries Denny Knox, executive director of the Ocean Beach MainStreet Association, “Because really [street vending has] robbed our community of our beachfront,” she said.
Knox said they've seen vendors take over the middle of sidewalks and parking lots. In a few cases, she said the police have had to get involved.
“I mean, there are people who say ‘well I’ll never go down there any more. I don't take my kids down there.’ That's not right,” Knox said.
Jenny Santos is a street vendor who does henna tattoo art. She’s not totally sure what the changes will mean for business, but understands the need for some rules.
She said some situations were getting out of control in places like Mission Beach and Balboa Park.
“People are paying other people to save their spots. They're leaving up their tents overnight. They're paying homeless people to sleep in certain areas. They’re chaining their stuff down. Yea, it's getting a little wild,” Santos said.
Street barber Iyzohe, who asked for his last name not to be used, said he feels the extra rules are punishment for people who are trying to make a livable wage.
“I feel like when you're already taking people that don't hardly have much and you try to impose all of these different things on them, it's kind of counterproductive,” the Chula Vista resident said. “It's like on the one hand you’re saying, 'we're allowing street vendors to go out and do free enterprise,' but then you create a whole bunch of rules that kind of make it difficult.”
Mission Beach business owner Matt Gardner said the lack of street vendor regulations and permits have taken a toll on public spaces, and on some brick and mortar stores like his own.
“Where most of the problem is here in Mission Beach, and we are affected probably the worst in all of San Diego, it is right in front of my door,” Gardner said. “I roll up my door every single day and I see hundreds of canopies and people selling stuff right in front of our faces — some of the same stuff that we sell.”
Mike Trimble, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, said the ordinance should bring some relief if it's properly imposed by code enforcement officers and park rangers.
“On any given weekend in the last, I would say, six to eight months, we could have anywhere between 40 and 60 hot dog vendors on 5th, 6th and 4th Avenue. So the entire Gaslamp Quarter has got just an over-proliferation of these unregulated hot dog vendors,” Trimble said.
Campbell said the first year of the ordinance will be like a trial run.
“There will be a report to the city council, and every year it can be fixed and changed. Just as when we passed the law we changed the permit fee from $236 down to $38 because it seemed that would be more fair for the vendors,” Campbell said.
The street vending ordinance takes effect June 22. Santos, the henna vendor, said people may test the enforcement.
“It sounds like a lot of vendors are going to plan on just vending anyway and setting up. And just getting the warning and then seeing if they get a fine or what happens,” Santos said. “I don't think people are really planning to stop. Because again, a lot of people, that's their livelihood. And that's all they're getting money from.”
Not following the new rules could cost a vendor hundreds or even thousands of dollars in fines and the potential for impounded equipment if they continue to break the new regulations.
For more information go to sandiego.gov/sidewalk-vending or contact the Logan Heights Community Development Corporation and City Heights Community Development Corporation about their monthly, in-person street vendor workshops.
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