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S.D. sidewalk vending ordinance faces second reading by City Council, then Coastal Commission review

Vendors do business at Scripps Park near La Jolla Cove.
(Courtesy of Bob Evans)

San Diego’s sidewalk vending ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect in most of the city June 1, must be heard by the California Coastal Commission for specifics about its effects in La Jolla and other coastal areas.

Vending will be blocked year-round at La Jolla’s Scripps Park and Children’s Pool, according to Bob Evans, president of the Parks & Beaches board.

The ordinance has not yet had a second and final reading by the San Diego City Council, so it hasn’t been officially adopted in the city, let alone submitted to the Coastal Commission. The second council reading is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17.

Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said he has “no idea” when the vending ordinance will go before the commission. “We haven’t submitted it yet, so we can’t have that conversation.”

“Things have moved slowly through the Coastal Commission and it takes awhile to get on the docket,” he added. “Then if commissioners have questions, it goes back to city staff for review, so it takes awhile.”

Though LaCava said implementation in the coastal zone “will not happen this summer,” he said the regulatory aspects that have been suggested “will improve what we’ve seen.”

The ordinance, which the council approved on an 8-1 vote March 1, will partially ban street vendors in parks and certain pedestrian-heavy areas. It also requires vendors to obtain city permits and institutes fines and possible impoundment for rules violations considered significant.

The regulations require vendors to stay minimum distances from specific locations, such as 100 feet from lifeguard stations, 25 feet from all beach access points (stairs, ramps, seawalls,) 50 feet from other vendors, and 500 feet from permitted events and from schools when in use. Each vendor is to be limited to a maximum area of 24 square feet.

In La Jolla, vending is to be blocked year-round at Scripps Park and the Children’s Pool. In addition, the Coast Boulevard boardwalk stretching between Jenner and Cuvier streets will be a year-round “vendor-free zone,” according to LaCava’s office.

The ordinance also restricts vendor bans to main thoroughfares in some business districts, which in La Jolla would be areas like the boardwalk at The Shores, according to LaCava’s field representative Steve Hadley. Vendors would be allowed to continue operating on the cross streets and side streets in those areas.

The ordinance follows the passage of California Senate Bill 946, which took effect Jan. 1, 2019. The bill’s primary intent was 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 city report.

“In the coastal zone [which includes most of La Jolla, except for some areas on the eastern side of La Jolla Shores], many of the elements we’re adopting will go into effect when the ordinance goes into effect citywide,” LaCava told the La Jolla Light. “It won’t address everything, but it should address some issues.”

Among them, roaming and stationary sidewalk vendors will be subject to different rules, and there are distance requirements separating the vendors from certain city amenities such as “high-traffic sidewalks” and other vendors. In February, LaCava asked that the Coast Boulevard and Scripps Park boardwalks be added to the list of “high-traffic bike and shared-use paths” where vending would be restricted.

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.”

The sidewalk vending ordinance joins a list of City Council actions that need to go before the Coastal Commission, including “Spaces as Places,” which aims to enable businesses to make temporary outdoor operations permanent, and the 2020 Land Development Code update. The 2021 Land Development Code update will be heard afterward.

“Once Spaces as Places is heard, this [vending ordinance] is the city’s top priority for Coastal Commission action,” LaCava said.

LaCava said he is “hopeful” the ordinance will be approved. “We tried to imbed into the ordinance the public’s ability to access coastal resources, such as views and the landscape … and things the Coastal Commission will agree with” while still meeting the terms of SB 946, he said.

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