La Jolla Parks & Beaches group seeks sidewalk vending ban in coastal areas

Vendors set up near La Jolla Cove.
(Courtesy of Bob Evans)

Ahead of a San Diego City Council hearing next week to review a proposed sidewalk vending ordinance, the La Jolla Parks & Beaches group voted to send a letter to the council asking for a ban on such vending in coastal parks.

LJP&B met Dec. 6 online to discuss the letter, and representatives of vending businesses also spoke out, hoping to discourage the board from seeking a ban.

“The current problem we are seeing at La Jolla’s coastline parks and beaches, especially at the Children’s Pool and Scripps Park, is that the vending has taken over the beach entrances, the pedestrian pathways, destroyed landscaping and taken away the public’s use of these natural resources,” said LJP&B Vice President Bob Evans.

Trustee Sally Miller noted the board’s historical stance against all vending at the parks and beaches.

“LJP&B is strongly against the sidewalk and street vending activities which have become so prevalent along our La Jolla coastline parks and beaches and requests that this activity be completely prohibited in our public recreation areas,” the draft letter read in part. “Besides crowding the already busy pathways and sidewalks and setting up merchandise and tables in the landscaping, the vending negatively impacts the most precious resource we have — the scenic and natural beauty people come to our parks to enjoy.

“We urge you to specifically write into the ordinance the prohibition and enforcement of sidewalk and street vending along our coastline parks and beaches. Maintaining our treasured natural landscapes and beautiful waterscapes is important so that everyone can enjoy these scenic vistas and recreational opportunities.”

Some who attended the meeting said Scripps Park “looks like a swap meet” on weekends and said the vending needs to be removed.

Others advocated regulations over a ban.

Area resident Robyn Davidoff suggested the board “reach out to the whole community and seek their opinions before you write a blanket statement [asking for a ban]. If the vendors were regulated and are kept to a reasonable number, it could be good for tourism.”

Vendor Paola Martinsen advocated “taking everyone’s interests into consideration” but said she supports regulations “with a high importance on respecting the impact it has on the green space, and approval for prequalifying the type of vendors and ensuring the quality of the items they sell.”

Artist Jordan McGinnis, who has been painting local beach scenes since the 1990s, agreed. “To completely remove everyone makes it difficult for artists and artisans to make a living. We add value to the community by making handmade goods. We should be allowed to vend in public.”

McGinnis agreed with “regulating merchandise that competes with local businesses.”

LJP&B voted 13-3 to send the letter with minor revisions.

The controversy comes in the wake of Senate Bill 946, a state law passed in 2018 that says any vendor regulations created by cities must focus on solving health and safety problems, not on limiting economic competition. The law prohibits local governments from banning all vendors or levying criminal penalties against them.

Supporters say the goal of the law is to encourage a new class of small entrepreneurs among California’s low-income residents, many of them immigrants with families.

But some leaders in beach communities say the vendors benefit from an uneven playing field because businesses with storefronts must pay a slew of city and county fees that street vendors don’t have to pay.

Attempts to draft regulations were made throughout 2019.

At one point, then-City Council member Barbara Bry — representing District 1, which includes La Jolla — recommended a survey of street vendors to find out their issues and concerns, and asked for an amendment to draft regulations to prohibit selling in Scripps Park year-round due to the harbor seal pupping season at the Children’s Pool, narrowness of the sidewalks along the La Jolla coastline and year-round pedestrian traffic.

Since then, City Council member Jennifer Campbell, whose District 2 includes Pacific Beach, Point Loma and Ocean Beach, took the lead on the new citywide street vending ordinance that will attempt to provide clear enforcement guidelines.

The ordinance is expected to be reviewed during the City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 14, online. ◆