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Police begin enforcing San Diego's sidewalk vendor ordinance in Gaslamp

The San Diego Police Department started enforcing the sidewalk vendor ordinance this past weekend. So, how did it go? KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae went down to the Gaslamp District to get an update.

The San Diego Police Department started enforcing the city's sidewalk vending ordinance last weekend.

Michael Trimble, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, said he has already heard positive reviews from merchants.

“They were very pleased to see that on Friday and Saturday they had very few vendors on Fifth avenue,” Trimble said. “They were excited to see Fifth Avenue clear again.”

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For weeks prior to December 2nd, the SDPD had been passing out fliers and trying to educate street vendors on the new law.

According to San Diego Police Department Lt. Arturo Swadener, selling hot dogs has become a lucrative business, with some vendors making up to $1,000 dollars in a night. Swadener said it’s become very competitive — and even dangerous.

“It’s led to a lot of violence down there. These hot dog carts, first of all, they’re unregulated and they could be unsafe, but secondly, they’ve become a gathering point for a lot of people and it’s become dangerous,” Swadener said. “A couple of weeks ago we had a stabbing amongst the vendors themselves. They’re fighting over territory.”

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Trimble said the hot dog vendors are not a “Mom and Pop” operation.

“The majority of the vendors, hot dog vendors especially, have come from Los Angeles. They come in box trucks, so 40-50 vendors at a time,” Trimble said, adding that the vendors had no permits. "No health permit. No business license. Not using any sanitary food handling procedures.”

Trimble said the vendors leave trash on the sidewalks, drop grease into the storm drains and then just leave.

“It looks bad, it smells bad and it’s just not a good look for a historic district that prides itself on being a clean, great dining and entertainment district,” Trimble

Vendors who continue to try to sell in the Gaslamp District face potential fines ranging from $200 to $1,000. And vendors with multiple violations could have their carts and equipment impounded.

On Monday, San Diego Police could not yet say how many citations were issued over the weekend. But Trimble looked forward to continuing enforcement.

“The free ride for illegal vending is over in the Gaslamp,” he said.