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San Diego, Coastal Commission reach agreement to allow enforcement of sidewalk vending rules in coastal zone

A surfer walks past street vendors in Ocean Beach in July 2021.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Coastal residents upset by a growing presence of sidewalk vendors may be breathing a sigh of relief in coming months, as San Diego officials said Aug. 26 that an agreement has been reached to allow enforcement of new city vending regulations in the coastal zone without a hearing by the California Coastal Commission.

City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell’s office said the Coastal Commission has agreed to withdraw its review of the local ordinance, which was passed earlier this year and took effect in most of the city June 22.

A recent request to extend the commission’s review period for the ordinance for up to a year also will be withdrawn.

Representatives of the Coastal Commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

The agreement was reached after recent meetings among representatives of Campbell, Mayor Todd Gloria and the Coastal Commission, according to Campbell’s office.

“I want to thank the Coastal Commission for helping the sidewalk vendor ordinance move forward so it can be implemented citywide, including in the beach areas,” Campbell, who represents District 2 (including Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach) said in a statement.

After the ordinance went into effect, restrictions focusing largely on where vendors can operate could not be enforced in the coastal zone until the Coastal Commission gave its approval. The reason given was that the ordinance would require a change to Local Coastal Programs, which serve as planning documents for coastal communities. Other regulations for permitting and health and safety are in effect.

The lack of enforcement in coastal areas seemed to lure more vendors to places like Ocean Beach and La Jolla, where many residents already were agitated by the tents and tables that they say are ruining the area’s appeal.

However, withdrawing the need for a review allows all the regulations, except those pertaining to pushcarts, to be enforceable citywide.

“The Coastal Commission is all about access to the beach, and what we are doing is regulating the business that takes place there,” said Venus Molina, Campbell’s chief of staff. “So we will withdraw our original application and will resubmit the pushcart piece of the ordinance for Coastal Commission review.”

Hoping for enforcement by the end of the year, Molina said the item will go before the City Council in the next month or so for the first of two hearings — one for discussion and one for a vote. The regulations would go into effect 30 days after the second hearing.

Among other things, the city’s ordinance would block vending year-round at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, within 25 feet of any beach access point or pier, within 25 feet of any decorative fountain, statue, monument, memorial or art installation, and on main thoroughfares in some business districts, including Newport Avenue between Abbott Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard in Ocean Beach 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.

In many city shoreline parks, including in Ocean Beach, the ordinance calls for banning vendors during the summer.

Rangers will be tasked with enforcement at shoreline parks and beaches, and code enforcement officers will manage the inland areas.

Kohta Zaiser, Gloria’s District 2 representative, said at the Ocean Beach Town Council’s August meeting that the city had not yet hired the extra 13 full-time rangers who will be dedicated to the ordinance’s execution.

Though the positions are fully funded, Zaiser said the city’s personnel department hadn’t completed the background checks and clerical procedures necessary to hire the 13 candidates identified for the jobs.

To address present needs, Zaiser said a team of currently available rangers, acting with police presence, would patrol Ocean Beach every Wednesday beginning Aug. 31, focusing on Veterans Plaza and the farmers market, where street vendors are most concentrated. He said he expects violations of the city permit regulations to be the most common infraction.

“Instead of park rangers coming out here and there individually, this is a coordinated effort with police and park rangers just to be out there,” Zaiser said. “You really show a strong front once or twice, you send a message that it’s not OK to operate as it has been for the last two to three years.”

The ordinance followed the passage of California Senate Bill 946, which took effect Jan. 1, 2019. The state law’s primary intent is to “decriminalize sidewalk vending by limiting municipalities to penalizing violations with administrative citations rather than criminal citations, in turn promoting entrepreneurship and economic success for sidewalk vendors,” according to a San Diego city report.

Read the full ordinance at bitly.ws/rToY.

— Freelance writer Steven Mihailovich contributed to this report.

Updates

6:48 p.m. Aug. 31, 2022: This article was updated with additional information and comments.


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