San Diego Extends Street Vending Rules to Coastal Areas

by on November 16, 2022 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach

Image from the OB Cam, Nov. 16, 2022

On Monday, November 14, the San Diego City Council voted to tentatively expand its recent street vending ordinance to the city’s coastal areas, including Ocean Beach. The council will take its final vote on the issue probably December 7, which will make it official and then go into effect in 30 days by early January 2023.

The council was able to take the vote because of a deal the city made with the California Coastal Commission. Up to now, it has been assumed the Commission had to give its approval before it went into effect in the coastal neighborhoods because the new law — passed on June 22 — would require a change to Local Coastal Programs, which serve as planning documents for coastal communities.

The August deal between the city and the Commission allowed the city to move on expanding enforcement of the ordinance into the coastal areas, provided it agreed to add a regulation prohibiting vendors from blocking public shoreline access.

As David Garrick, writing for La Jolla Light, reported, “The agreement made it necessary for the city to rewrite the law to clarify that approval by the commission was not required, and then reapprove the amended version of the law, which it did Nov. 14.”

Critics of what has been going on at the coast without enforcement, like at the foot of Newport Avenue in OB, observed that the lack of enforcement appeared to bring in even more vendors, having been removed from Balboa Park and other places.

The ordinance would block vending year-round at certain sites, and in OB it calls for banning vendors during the busy summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Vendors would be allowed to continue operating on the cross streets and side streets in those areas.

Rangers are tasked with enforcement at shoreline parks and beaches, with code enforcement officers managing the inland 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 and explosive devices.


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

City officials call the vending ordinance a balance between supporting vendors as a class of entrepreneurs and preserving the character of local business districts, parks and beaches.

SB 946, a state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2019, decriminalized sidewalk vending but allowed cities to impose limited regulations if they focus only on health and safety and not on keeping vendors out of business districts for competitive reasons.

Critics say the state law has contributed to dramatic changes in the look and feel of many popular San Diego locations, including La Jolla, Balboa Park, the Gaslamp Quarter and Ocean Beach.

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

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