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Councilman Joe LaCava says ‘strict’ proposed street vending ordinance ‘will work’ for La Jolla

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava addresses the La Jolla Shores Association online.
San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava told the La Jolla Shores Association that the city’s proposed street vending ordinance contains strict regulations.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The same day a proposed street vending ordinance cleared the San Diego City Council’s economic development committee, Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said the proposal’s “pretty strict rules … will work to La Jolla’s advantage.”

Speaking at the Feb. 9 virtual meeting of the La Jolla Shores Association about street vending and other local concerns, LaCava called the proposed ordinance “sophisticated and complicated.” It is designed to minimize street vending within the restrictions imposed by Senate Bill 946, a 2018 state law that aims to encourage a new class of small entrepreneurs among California’s low-income residents, many of them immigrants with families.

SB 946 prohibits local governments from banning all street vendors but allows them to place some restrictions on vendors if the goal is not to limit economic competition. Instead, the restrictions must either solve health and safety problems or preserve the scenic characteristics of parks.

Members of the council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee praised the proposed legislation Feb. 9 as the right balance between fostering vendors as entrepreneurs and preventing them from damaging the character of beach areas, parks and business districts.

Vendors offer their goods at Scripps Park near La Jolla Cove.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The proposal, which is scheduled for a vote by the full council on Tuesday, March 1, would ban vendors only during the busy summer months in many of the city’s beach areas. Those include La Jolla’s Scripps Park and Children’s Pool, according to Bob Evans, president of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches president says a planned partial ban on vending in many shoreline parks doesn’t go far enough.

It also would ban vendors on main thoroughfares in some business districts, which in La Jolla would be areas like the boardwalk at The Shores, according to LaCava field representative Steve Hadley.

Advocates for vendors have said they are frustrated that the partial bans would force many vendors to stop operating in high-traffic areas at peak periods, and they criticized a plan to require vendors to obtain both a business license and a special vendor permit.

Supporters of vending legislation, which include many residents and business groups in the city’s beach areas, say the rapid proliferation of vendors has dramatically changed the look and feel of their communities by crowding sidewalks and beach entrances and trampling landscaping.

The ordinance would prevent vendors from setting up on grassy areas, near a beach entrance or crosswalks, or near fire hydrants and streetlights, LaCava said. It also would require vendors to maintain minimum distances from one another to prevent them from forming large clusters. Each vendor would be limited to a maximum area of 24 square feet.

“It’s not perfect,” LaCava said, “but it is much better than certainly the craziness we see out there today. I am very hopeful.”

There also are rules against clothing racks and customer seating, among other guidelines.

“I think we’ve crafted something that the city attorney agrees is actually enforceable,” LaCava said.

Shores Association President Janie Emerson said the ordinance “is wonderful, but not if it’s not enforced.” She expressed concern that ensuring compliance will be left to city code enforcement and park rangers, who she said are often “ineffective.”

Though LaCava said he’s excited about the regulations, he’s concerned about some of the more “nuanced” rules. “It’s going to be complicated for the vendors to understand what they can and cannot do, which ... makes it complicated for enforcement.”

He said he hopes the city will have a dedicated phone line for street vending enforcement, along with a dedicated enforcement team.

LaCava said he also plans “to be much more aggressive during budget season about code enforcement.”

With the full City Council about to have its vote, LaCava said he isn’t certain whether the California Coastal Commission also will have to approve all or parts of the ordinance for the coastal areas.

— San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer David Garrick contributed to this report.