San Diego City Council Approves Street Vendor Regulations in 8 to 1 Vote

by on March 2, 2022 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By David Garrick / San Diego Union-Tribune /March 1, 2022

San Diego cracked down Tuesday on thousands of street vendors who have dramatically changed the look and feel of many popular city locations, including Balboa Park, Ocean Beach and areas near the Convention Center.

The City Council voted 8-1 to approve legislation that partially bans street vendors in parks and such pedestrian-heavy areas as Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter. It also requires vendors to obtain city permits and institutes fines and possible impoundment for rules violations.

Supporters call it a balance between fostering vendors as a new class of entrepreneurs and preventing them from damaging the character of parks, beach areas and business districts. Merchant groups mostly praised the new law, which takes effect June 1. But some lobbied unsuccessfully for more restrictions, such as banning vendors in more areas and requiring them to have insurance.

Advocates for vendors said the new law is too punitive and aggressive, stressing that it would ban vendors from most high-traffic and profitable areas. They also said it has racist overtones because most vendors are immigrants of color.

Garrick reported that business groups “urged city officials to prioritize enforcement of the new rules, which will be handled by park rangers and code enforcement officers — not police officers, except in extreme cases.” OBMS’s Denny Knox was quoted:

“Enforcement is a huge thing for us and we hope you will make sure this ordinance gets enforced.”


The new law bans vendors only during the busy summer months — instead of possibly banning them year-round — in Balboa Park and many of the city’s beach areas.

It also targets vendor bans to main thoroughfares in some business districts, like Little Italy and Ocean Beach. Vendors would be allowed to continue operating on the cross streets and side streets in those areas. …

In addition to restricting where vendors can operate, the new law restricts what they can sell. Prohibited items include alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vaping products, cannabis, pharmaceuticals, live animals and weapons — including knives, guns, or explosive devices.

The law creates “entrepreneurship zones” — places where vendors would get chances to flourish together with possible financial help from the city. Locations for those zones have not been chosen.

For the balance of the U-T article, go here.

Here is the Voice of San Diego’s version of the news by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña :

Street vendors selling tamales, trinkets or ice cream pops have used San Diego’s sidewalks to sell their goods for years, creating a sort of informal economy in the process.

On Tuesday, San Diego’s City Council adopted vending rules that establish a vendor permitting system, lay out enforcement and education practices and create entrepreneurship zones. The rules, though touted as too restrictive by some and too lenient by others, have in a sense legitimized these kinds of small business owners.

“Street vending is a legitimate form of entrepreneurship and it’s often the only viable path to start a business especially those from less privileged backgrounds,” said Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “The folks who are street vendors, at least in my district, are extremely hardworking. They bring vibrancy, community character and support to our local economy just like small businesses do because at their core, street vendors are small businesses.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris March 2, 2022 at 12:01 pm

“They also said it has racist overtones because most vendors are immigrants of color.”

I think it’s safe to say the open vender supporters who make this claim do not actually hold the belief that the new policy has racist overtones. It’s simply a talking point used to keep the vendors there.


kh March 3, 2022 at 8:53 am

Brown people have less money, therefore anything that costs them more money to run a business or anything else, is racist. It’s really a tired argument that has lost all meaning.


Chris March 3, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Brown people on average having less money than white people and the fact that most of these non licensed street vendors are non whites does not make the new restrictions racists. I will be so bold as to say you don’t believe it yourself. Try again.


kh March 3, 2022 at 1:39 pm

I’m agreeing with you.


Chris March 3, 2022 at 6:30 pm

Sorry man. My sarcasm radar was shut off and hadn’t had my coffee yet.


Bearded OBcean March 2, 2022 at 12:55 pm

And unfortunately, the end of Newport will be overrun with these vendors for the other 270 days of the year.


Tyler March 2, 2022 at 2:16 pm

Makes you wonder where they’ll move. Are we going to see it shift to the end of Niagara at the pier? Santa Monica between Abbott and Bacon?


kh March 2, 2022 at 3:02 pm

I’ll take it, considering the alternative.

But it’s wild that the city is asking vendors to indemnify the city, while simultaneously not requiring them to carry insurance as other cities do. Accountability without insurance to back it up is at best, writing on paper.

Likewise… new laws without enforcement to back it up is just writing on paper.

It was nice to see D1 and D3 councilmembers and possibly other districts offer up amendments that residents requested after seeing the initial draft. Not in D2 though, apparently Jen always knows best. And it was obvious during her term as council president that she doesn’t even know how to handle an amendment or basic Robert’s Rules in a public meeting.

It’s refreshing to see that Elo-Rivera, whether or not you agree with his policies, knows how to run a meeting.


GetFreeLiveFree March 2, 2022 at 6:21 pm

I used to love Balboa Park. But decided never again until the vendors are swept out. If you’re a vendor reading this – go out to any FARMERS MARKET and hawk your goods there. There’s only about 30 around the county weekly. Pay your fee, get your space. Period. This is historic landmark. They have NO RIGHT to turn our shared plazas and museums into a place where you can hawk everything from Tarot card readings, Crystal, cheap jewelry, and unregulated food. Electric cables everywhere, garbage, flags, tents, in addition to all the green construction fences up. JUST RUINED and NO I’m never going to by some food someone made at home. EVER.


6 cups March 2, 2022 at 7:07 pm

wait, where is the tarot reader???


Rebecca Coles March 2, 2022 at 10:12 pm

I just want free access to our public space — the hawkers, aggressive pan handlers, post- covid restaurant hanging on spillovers. Invading our public space. That we pay for the use of and they do not. Stealing our public space.


kh March 3, 2022 at 8:57 am

Public space is for the public! We need to quit looking for every excuse to annex it to private interests. Streetaties, sidewalk cafes, swap meets in our parks, the answer to all these is the same.

If there’s a desire to organize a large vendor event like this, go get a permit to do it on occasion, clean up your mess, put something in the pot for public benefit and park maintenance, and then move along.


Mark Elliott Lugo March 6, 2022 at 12:15 pm

I have been speaking and interacting with the vendors at the foot of Newport Avenue, especially on Farmers Market Day, for years. Some of them are regulars and some are world travelers just passing through, hoping to make enough money to cover the next leg of their journey. The latter are there only for a week or two before they move on. The regulars work grueling hours setting up elaborate booths with beautifully arranged merchandise. Some of the more enterprising ones make constant and surprising large sales, so there’s definitely a market for their goods and services. (One of my favorites is an African American barber who sets up a professional-looking shop on the grass and creates exceptional hairstyles!) They accept credit cards, etc. This colorful bazaar definitely adds street life and an exotic ambiance to the neighborhood. Combined with the drum circle and dancers on Wednesdays, it’s quite a show! Being an artist, I especially love their unconventional ways of dressing. I can spend hours checking out their handmade, one-of-kind, imported, or vintage merchandise, etc. Lots of photo opportunities! In OB, at least, I don’t see a lot of cheap trinkets, though there are some.

On the other hand, the vendors are using public property for free, and many of them are in direct competition with nearby brick-and-mortar businesses. On busy days, a huge part of the seawall (a great vantage point for watching people, the surf, and the sunsets) is blocked from public access. I doubt if the street vendors pay California Sales Tax on what sometimes appears to be substantial amounts of merchandise they sell, not to mention the cost of acquiring business-related permits and licenses and complying with the regulations that other businesses do. (I would never buy food from any of these vendors.) Of course, they don’t pay other overhead like rent or the salaries of employees. As a small property owner who feels taxed to death, I’m not happy about the loss of revenues to the City and State. In terms of the race of the vendors (an issue that never occurred to me until I read this article), in OB it is diverse, but the vast majority appear to be white, hippie, counter-culture types, though there are some African Americans and Mexicans in the mix. Many of them subscribe to fringe beliefs that have me questioning their sanity and ability to fit into society. This is OB, so each to his or her own, I guess! However, in terms of the pandemic, I was really bothered by the fact that very few of them got vaccinated (I asked them and they told me) or wore masks, citing a government plot to subjugate the masses, implant microchips, etc. Given that the vendors come into close contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of people a day, I find that worrisome. One of the other things that bothers me as an artist is the lack of respect they have for the painted metal sculpture at the foot of Newport. They sit on it, tape flyers to it, and hang merchandise from it. The restoration of this public art a few years ago cost tens of thousands of dollars. Those painstaking repairs are rapidly being destroyed. In short, the new regulations appear to me to be more than fair, and can be modified, as necessary. Hopefully, they will be enforced.


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