A letter from Mayor Bob Filner allowing a man on disability to sell “home-made” hemp necklaces in Ocean Beach without a permit has rankled OB’s Mainstreet Association.
Earlier this Spring, David Millette, a resident of Chula Vista, began selling his self-made / home-make hemp necklaces, watch bands and other jewelry items on the Wall at the foot of Newport Avenue. After about a week, he was told by San Diego police that his sales were illegal and chased him away.
Millette did some research into the San Diego municipal and state laws, and found that the municipal code prevents the sale of merchandise in public parks and beaches, with an exception being if the sales are protected by the First Amendment.
He also found a ruling by a District Court in 2010 that found the City of Los Angeles’ ordinance which regulated performers and vendors in the Venice Beach area of the city violated the First Amendment. The ruling stated that the sale of handmade art by vendors was essentially an exercise of free speech, drawing a distinction between people who perform or sell something that makes a statement from those who simply sell items to make a profit.
Millette feels that his handcrafted jewelry is a work of art as he makes it all himself. Therefore, he argues, it’s protected by the First Amendment. He told VOSD:
“Art is First Amendment speech. Just because you sell your art, that doesn’t diminish your First Amendment rights.”
Millette also noticed that within the ordinance was a provision that allowed sales at the beach with a document or letter from the mayor. So, on April 4th at Mayor Filner’s regular public “meet-and-greet” at City Hall, Millette approached Filner with his legal arguments and requested a letter from him.
Filner told the 10News:
“I thought he made a great case for it and he apparently just needed a letter from me.”
So, the mayor penned a short letter allowing Millette to sell his work at the beach or other parks, on April 29th, and sent it off to the Director of Park and Recreation for the City, Stacey LoMedico.
Millette has taken his letter from Filner and had it laminated for protection. He says he has not been bothered by police even since he has had it.
However, the letter and what Filner did has not settled well with local OB merchants. The Voice of San Diego notes that the OB Mainstreet Association head, Denny Knox, is unhappy with the letter and hopes the Mayor changes his mind. She feels that the letter allows people like Millette to not have to follow guidelines set up by her group and the police and park and rec to keep OB free of vendors without permits. The Association makes efforts to vet vendors to ensure they’re licensed, permitted and insured.
Knox told VOSD:
“There will be repercussions from this, believe me. This gives the idea that people can just do it, and they’ll just do it as long as they can before getting busted.”
“When you have people selling and there’s no relationship to the community, there’s nothing. It’s just a takeaway, and in the long run it really hurts the community.”
Meanwhile, Millette is selling his wares, and he wants to organize other vendors so they can set up at the foot of the Newport on Farmers Market days, plus he wants to rewrite the City’s ordinance.