San Diego optimistic that coastal sidewalk vending enforcement will be ‘really quick’ and effective

Park rangers, accompanied by San Diego police officers, conduct vendor enforcement Feb. 1 in Ocean Beach.
(Tyler Faurot)

A mayor’s representative tells the Ocean Beach Town Council that OB will have at least two rangers enforcing the city’s ordinance after an initial push of about six.


With San Diego’s full enforcement of its sidewalk vending ordinance beginning in beach communities Feb. 1, a city representative explained the strategies, mechanics and expectations of the enforcement task at the Ocean Beach Town Council’s January meeting.

Park rangers are responsible for enforcement of the ordinance at city beaches and shoreline parks, and Ocean Beach will have at least two rangers after an initial push of about six, said Kohta Zaiser, Mayor Todd Gloria’s representative for City Council District 2. Some of the rangers will move on “because they have to cover six other communities up the coast,” Zaiser said.

The City Council passed the sidewalk vending ordinance last year and it took effect June 22 in most of the city. But enforcement of regulations focusing largely on where vendors can operate was postponed in coastal communities pending a review by the California Coastal Commission. The commission ultimately agreed to forgo the review following negotiations with the city.

Heading into the coastal enforcement, the city was short 11 of the 29 ranger positions allocated. But Zaiser said the deficit could be rectified quickly through transfers of city employees, thereby bypassing background checks and paperwork that prolong the hiring process.

Zaiser said rangers should be fully staffed by mid-February and that at least 20 will be involved in administering the vending ordinance.

Zaiser said he believes the initial concentrated enforcement and regular follow-ups should prevent vendors from operating illegally in the beach area, though he said it remains to be seen where they might subsequently emerge.

“We’ve been communicating since last June or July that this is upcoming,” Zaiser said. “I think they’re pivoting. We’ll see where everything kind of lands.”

The day the enforcement began, OB’s Veterans Plaza off Abbott Street near Newport Avenue — usually crowded with vendors — was empty of sellers. Only a few were seen elsewhere near the beach, and some received citations.

Some locals see the regulations as long overdue, while some vendors say they’re unfair.

Feb. 5, 2023

The community was urged to report vendors operating without permits. Zaiser said the city’s Get It Done app is the primary reporting method that rangers will respond to.

Though the city often has been criticized for slow response to issues reported via Get It Done, Zaiser said he expected that responses to complaints about vendors would be rapid.

“It’s the only thing that park rangers will be doing for the most part,” he said. “They’re standing by to do these types of reports. ... I just assume this is going to be really, really quick because you kind of have to be. [It won’t work] if you report a vendor at 2 p.m. and come back three days later.”

Homelessness and crime

The OB Town Council heard a presentation during its meeting from Cheryl Sueing-Jones, one of three community partnership prosecutors in the San Diego County district attorney’s office.

Sueing-Jones described her duties in connecting and working with community organizations and law enforcement to prevent crimes in neighborhoods. She recited a litany of programs, workshops, town hall meetings, media events, youth retreats and more that she organizes to explore a host of topics, including human trafficking, internet safety, fraud awareness, hate crimes and elder abuse.

She focused half her talk on homelessness, which she said is the primary reason she contacted the Town Council. She submitted a long list of statistics indicating that homeless people are likely to both commit and be victims of crimes.

“We recognize that homelessness is a big problem and we know it is a big problem here in your community,” Sueing-Jones said. “So we want to brainstorm ideas with you about what it takes to help you feel safer. What is it that you would like to see being done differently?”

She discussed a three-tiered plan under development, sounding similar to the San Diego Police Department’s progressive enforcement model, to increase consequences connected to every encounter with a homeless person who has committed a misdemeanor and non-violent offense.

Tier 1 would provide a diversion program to the person, with no criminal charges. Tier 2 would include a diversion program with charges dismissed after undergoing therapy classes and community service. Tier 3 would include supervision under a collaborative court similar to those that already exist for drug offenders, people with behavioral health issues and others.

“The goal of this is to serve high-risk/high-need individuals and try to get to the root causes of why they’re doing something — to reduce incarceration levels by providing opportunity for early intervention,” Sueing-Jones said. “Catch them early on and give them some resources and connect them with community-based organizations. ... The idea is to do these escalating consequences. It’s not the most ideal, but we can’t throw them all in jail.”

After her almost 40-minute presentation, Town Council President Corey Bruins said: “I have a mental list of about 15 questions. We could probably stay here another hour or two ... peppering you with all sorts of questions and comments.”

With a packed agenda, however, Bruins suggested that OBTC gather community feedback about the presentation and invite Sueing-Jones to a future meeting or hold a special forum, to which she agreed.

Board candidates

The meeting ended with a candidates forum in which nine people vying for eight available seats on the OBTC board gave two-minute presentations to the 75 people in attendance live and online.

The candidates included five incumbent board members — Bruins, Tracy Dezenzo, Gary Gartner, Aaron Null and Stephanie Kane — as well as newcomers Jenny Brengelman, Nathan Freischlag, Mandy Havlik and Shelly Parks.

Voting, which began Jan. 26 and closed Feb. 3, was open to OBTC members who live, work, operate a business or own property in Ocean Beach. The winners will be sworn in at the February board meeting.

Three board members — Scott Grace, Trudy Levenson and Stacie Woehrle — are leaving the board, and Bruins ended the meeting by expressing appreciation for their service.

“They have just done incredible work,” Bruins said. “Their care, attention, dedication, countless hours that they have spent on projects in this community are unmatched.”


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