By LANA HARRISON | Downtown San Diego Partnership
Residents and visitors of San Diego may have recently noticed a new sound around town — the jingle of small, mobile carts announcing the presence of sidewalk vendors with a broad array of goodies. It can be hard to ignore the call of a refreshing ice cream while walking around town on these beautiful San Diego days.
These sidewalk vendors are, formally, a recent phenomenon in San Diego, at least since Senate Bill 946, signed in September 2018 by then-Governor Jerry Brown, went into action in January.
As with any new policy that impacts the business and social environment, there are undoubtedly a lot of questions: How did this start? Why the change? Where do things stand today and what kind of input can vendors expect regarding regulations coming through the legislative pipeline?
SB946, also called the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, decriminalizes sidewalk vending, citing opportunities for entrepreneurship and economic growth, especially for low-income and immigrant communities, and the dissemination of culturally significant food and merchandise as the benefits of this approach to sidewalk vending.
Indeed, since the law went into effect at the beginning of this year, these small-business owners seem to have quickly utilized the change in policy. Concerns have been raised, however, that unregulated sidewalk vending poses unintended risks.
Under SB 946, local governments can establish parameters that regulate how the enterprises operate within the public right of way and impact public health and safety.
As a result, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed an ordinance that would establish permitting and operating procedures. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of those regulations.
Vendors would need to obtain a $30 permit (with a valid business tax certificate and release of indemnification) through the City Treasurer’s Office, valid for one calendar year. Food vendors would need a valid County Department of Environmental Health Permit and Food Handlers Card.
The following areas in Downtown San Diego would be prohibited:
Fourth and Fifth avenues between Broadway and Harbor Drive.
Imperial Avenue from Park Boulevard to 17th Street.
Petco Park and the Ballpark District on event and Padres game days: Sixth Avenue through 14th Street between Market Street, Harbor Drive, and Commercial Street.
Within 500 feet of the Convention Center during convention.
Additional proposed requirements:
Vending would be allowed in public parks except during the summer moratorium in Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park, Presidio Park, Belmont Park, and the beach from Ocean Beach to La Jolla.
Prohibited within 5 feet of any fire hydrant, fire escape, or above ground facility (i.e. streetlight, tree well, parking meter, scooter corral).
Within 15 feet of another sidewalk vendor, intersection, driveway, building entrance, parking space, access ramp, outdoor dining or patio area, public restroom.
Within 25 feet of any fire lane.
Within 100 feet of any vehicle entrance, emergency facility, major transit stops, city street or sidewalk closure.
And within 500 feet of any permitted special event, school during recess or within 30 minutes before or after operating hours, and city sports facilities on event days.
The proposed ordinance was unanimously forwarded to the City Council by the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, with additional local prohibitions that include cross streets bounded by Kettner, Columbia, Beech, and Laurel.
In an effort to communicate the regulations outlined in the ordinance as well as receive input from sidewalk vendors and community members, the city of San Diego is hosting a number of workshops, which can be found at sandiego.gov/sidewalkvending and is inviting additional comments at email@example.com.
— Lana Harrison is the communications coordinator for the Downtown San Diego Partnership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.