San Diego ‘trying to move quickly’ on street vendor ordinance, Ocean Beach leaders are told
Many OB Town Council-sponsored events have been set for later this year, including the traditional holiday festivities, though the Delta coronavirus variant could render the schedule ‘a little up in the air.’
Slow but steady progress on contentious issues such as a San Diego street vendor ordinance and the future of the Ocean Beach Pier was reported by government representatives at the Ocean Beach Town Council’s July meeting.
A presentation also showcased the schedule of the Town Council’s events later this year.
Corey Bruins moderated the meeting, his first as president in the wake of former President Mark Winkie’s resignation July 6. The Town Council also is trying to replace former board members Jon Carr, Arlene Fink and Christie Romano, who also have resigned.
The Ocean Beach Town Council has become embroiled in controversy over the sudden resignation of President Mark Winkie, with two other board members resigning in the aftermath.
The meeting was the 12th held virtually over Zoom since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.
A draft ordinance to regulate street vendors could go before the City Council by the end of the summer or early fall, according to Teddy Martinez, the Ocean Beach representative for District 2 Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell.
The latest hurdles in drafting a San Diego street vendor ordinance had many people attending the April meeting of the Ocean Beach Town Council bristling at the possibility of delays in the city taking charge of a situation residents deemed chaotic.
In 2019, the state enacted a law known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act (SB 946), which prohibits local governments from banning all vendors or levying criminal penalties against them, while allowing regulations for “health, safety or welfare” reasons.
The city drafted an ordinance later that year under then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer. It reached the City Council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee in February 2020 before falling to the wayside with the onset of the pandemic.
Ocean Beach residents have complained about crowds of vendors, many from outside the community, ruining the small park at Veterans Plaza and often hindering access to the beach.
Martinez said Campbell has been working closely with City Council members Joe LaCava (District 1) and Stephen Whitburn (District 3) to craft legislation in accord with the state law as well as input from vendors and others.
Communities in District 2 include Ocean Beach, Point Loma and Pacific Beach; areas in District 1 include La Jolla, University City and Carmel Valley; District 3 includes downtown San Diego and communities nearby.
“We are trying to move something pretty quickly,” Martinez said. “We’ve noticed that this has been a constant issue for Districts 1, 2 and 3. Our offices are working with them to try to get an ordinance based on the previous ordinance ... before the council with whatever necessary modifications we need.”
Tracy Dezenzo, a member of the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, applauded Campbell’s effort to coordinate with districts also affected by the issue in order to sway council members who might not share those concerns.
“I think it’s really, really important that we can present that information and be a solid front, because otherwise the other council members aren’t going to go for it,” Dezenzo said. “They’re not going to care about the problem we’re having in the more touristy areas because they have their own issues to deal with.”
San Diego police Community Relations Officer David Surwilo said his department’s hands are tied regarding street vendors until some local legislation is in place.
“At this point, unfortunately, it is not a police issue because there is no law,” Surwilo said. “We need some sort of common-sense regulation. ... But it drives us crazy, too, that we can’t add some sort of civility down there [at Veterans Plaza], because it is over the top.”
The recent rise of the Delta coronavirus variant cast a long shadow over announcements of OBTC-sponsored events this year.
“As we have in the past year and every year before that — as long as we have been the steward of these events — the Town Council is going to take into account public health as much as we ever have,” Bruins said. “We’re also going to do everything we can to throw events for this community so that in the midst of continuing to be safe and vigilant, as the pandemic is not over, we also are able to enjoy this place that we call home.”
Board members chairing each event took turns to discuss their plans.
OBTC is launching a new event, the Pet Parade, from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, at Bacon Street and West Point Loma Boulevard. Residents will be able to show off their favorite critters — dogs, cats and anything else, “as long as it’s legal.”
“We’re going to wing this thing,” said Scott Grace, the event’s organizer. “We’re sick and tired of sitting on our hands. We’re ready to do something.”
The First Responders Picnic, which was canceled last year, is expected in August and will honor public safety employees by delivering food to first responders.
The Restaurant Walk will, like last year, be split into two days. It is targeted for Nov. 8-9.
Dates for some other events, such as the annual Pier Pancake Breakfast and the Craft Fair at Veterans Plaza, are pending.
All of OBTC’s signature holiday events have been scheduled. The Holiday Tree will be installed Nov. 30, the Holiday Auction will be held Dec. 2 and the Holiday Parade on Dec. 4.
The Food and Toy Drive will be held Dec. 13-17, with delivery Dec. 19. Last year, the event delivered seasonal gifts to 150 families and senior citizens, a boost from the usual 100. Co-chairman Cameron Reid expects the same number to be served this year.
Uncertainty surrounding the Delta variant means every event is subject to postponement or cancellation. However, planners said they are applying lessons learned from last year to devise alternative celebrations should any event be hindered by a resurgence of the pandemic.
“Every event this year, just like last year, could be a little up in the air until we get closer,” Reid said. “We’ll make those calls as we approach. In the meantime, we will continue to fundraise and try to make, again, this ... the most successful.”
The state’s recent allocation of $8.4 million toward work on the aging OB Pier was dissected by Gary Gartner, OBTC’s local government advocacy liaison.
The city hopes to use the money toward development plans to either renovate or rebuild the pier, with the latter estimated to cost up to $60 million for construction alone, Gartner said, based on a conversation with Kohta Zaiser, Mayor Todd Gloria’s District 2 representative.
“The question is, where is the rest of the money going to come from?” Gartner said. “That’s a good down payment, you might say.”
Deemed at “the end of its service life” by a recently released engineering study, the Ocean Beach Pier was the sole topic of a town hall meeting convened by the Ocean Beach Town Council to discuss the landmark’s future.
In the first of his planned monthly reports on the pier at OBTC meetings, Gartner said the mayor hopes to secure a share of funds from the infrastructure bill currently before Congress.
“It’s going to be a long process,” Gartner said. “Right now, there’s definitely nothing in place. There’s just this initial seed money to begin the process of seeing where we go.”
Toward that end, Martinez highlighted the formation by Campbell’s office of an informal OB Pier advisory group to hold meetings to discuss options regarding the pier.
“This is a community advisory group that will offer community groups and residents and anybody who wants to opine [a] platform, so as the decisions are made on the future of the pier, our office can filter those through and get that constant community feedback as we get more funding,” Martinez said.