Will delay in regulations on San Diego’s coast make La Jolla even more attractive to sidewalk vendors?

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

As the city of San Diego waits for the California Coastal Commission to clear its sidewalk vending ordinance to take full effect in coastal areas, La Jolla residents likely will have another summer with vendors in area parks.

New city regulations on sidewalk vending will go into effect Wednesday, June 22, but many points in the 34-page ordinance that center largely on where vendors can operate cannot be enforced in the coastal zone until after the Coastal Commission approves them. (See a list below.)

The coastal zone includes most of La Jolla, except for an area on the eastern side of La Jolla Shores.

Health- and safety-related sections of the ordinance will apply without Coastal Commission approval. Penalties for violating health and safety rules — including selling prohibited items such as alcohol or firearms — also will be in effect.

But with many regulations unenforceable in coastal areas, coupled with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to local shoreline parks and beaches, will La Jolla be even more desirable for sidewalk vendors than other parts of the city?

Some local leaders think so.

Though the city of San Diego has rolled out new regulations on sidewalk vending effective June 22, La Jollans and residents of other coastal areas will need to wait longer — probably through the summer — to see more than two dozen rules take effect for their parks and streets.

May 29, 2022

“I very much feel the coastal zone will especially attract many new sidewalk vendors these upcoming months,” said La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans, who has been following the vending issue for years. “Already through this spring, it’s the largest crowd of vendors ever in taking over the walkways and landscaping at the Scripps Park/Cove and Children’s Pool Plaza.”

With the regulations being enforced in other areas of the city, “it seems reasonable that many vendors will continue to venture over to the coastline parks and beaches and set up their tables and tents and wares,” Evans said. “The natural beauty of the parks area is quickly diminishing and deteriorating and increasingly becoming not the prized scenic destination for tourists, visitors and recreational users. No other coastal municipalities in California allow sidewalk vending along beaches and boardwalks; the federal government does not allow sidewalk vending at any of its 400-plus national parks; nor does the state of California allow sidewalk-type vending at any of its parks.”

“I very much feel the coastal zone will especially attract many new sidewalk vendors these upcoming months.”

— Bob Evans, La Jolla Parks & Beaches president

LJP&B member Ann Dynes said the uptick in people visiting outdoor spots during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic created an additional market for sidewalk vendors.

“I think sidewalk vending is an example of Western humanism which empowers what is good for some individuals at the expense of what is good for society as a whole,” she said. “Carts on oceanfront bluffs and beaches is not good for the millions of us hoping to enjoy a natural experience. Carts are not good for local businesses, which pay employee benefits, remit sales taxes, pay rent for their space and are investors in our communities.”

However, City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, said he doesn’t believe that those who vend in other locations will make their way to the coastal zone, though those who already have a preferred seaside spot are likely to return.

“The coastal zone is very attractive because the vendors want to go where people are,” LaCava said. But despite the list of regulations that will not yet apply in the coastal zone, “I don’t think the vendors that work in the Gaslamp [Quarter in downtown San Diego] are going to go to the coast. I think we will see the same people that were there already. So is it possible that things are going to get worse than what we’ve seen? I hope not.”

But La Jolla Shores Association President Janie Emerson said “it appears the city does not care if the beach areas are flooded with unlicensed and unregulated vendors preying on families and visitors. It also appears the city cares nothing about the impact this will have on the brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants that pay big fees to the city.”

LaCava said it might be “scant consolation when you walk through Scripps Park” and see a row of vendors, but the city is working to make sure the regulations that can be enforced will be.

“We have budgeted for more enforcement to regulate the street vendors and bring some order to them. Even if they can’t enforce every part of the ordinance, they will enforce what they can,” LaCava said.

“I don’t think the vendors that work in the Gaslamp [Quarter in downtown San Diego] are going to go to the coast. I think we will see the same people that were there already.”

— San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava

The Coastal Commission has a meeting scheduled for June 8-10 in Del Mar, but the sidewalk vending ordinance is not on the agenda. The commission’s subsequent meetings will be July 13-15 and Aug. 10-12.

Once the commission reviews the ordinance, the matter will go back to the City Council for adoption of any amendments per commission recommendations, according to Kathleen Ferrier, policy director for LaCava. Two council hearings will be required, one for discussion and one for a vote, and the regulations would go into effect 30 days after the second hearing.

Rules on hold on the coast

Here is a partial list of the regulations that need Coastal Commission approval before they can take effect in the coastal zone:

General regulations

  • Vending activities on residential blocks may occur only between 7 a.m. and sunset.
  • Vending activities on non-residential blocks may occur only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. or the hours of operation imposed on other businesses on the same block, whichever is least restrictive.
  • Only roaming sidewalk vendors may operate in residential areas.
  • No stationary sidewalk vendor is permitted on a sidewalk less than 6 feet wide.
  • Sidewalk vendors shall not display signs advertising any offsite business.
  • Sidewalk vendors may not use more than 5 square feet or 25 percent of the vending space, whichever is less, for items not directly related to vending operations.

Vending locations
No stationary sidewalk vendor shall vend and no roaming sidewalk vendor shall stop to make sales in the following locations:

  • The public right of way, or any area that blocks the safe flow of pedestrians or vehicles
  • Any public property that does not meet the definition of a sidewalk, including but not limited to any alley, beach, street, median or street end
  • Parking lots
  • Any slope greater than 5 percent or where signage indicates that wheels must be cramped to the curb
  • Within 18 inches from the edge of a curb
  • Within five feet in front of or 65 feet behind the sidewalk along a bus stop
  • Within 10 feet of any driveway, marked crosswalk or fire escape or emergency exit
  • Within 15 feet of any other sidewalk vendor; intersection; building entrance; loading zone, parking space or access ramp designed for those with disabilities; outdoor dining or patio area; public restroom; curb ramp; location with a valid encroachment permit displayed; or high-traffic bike and shared-use path
  • Within 25 feet of any beach access point or pier
  • Within 50 feet of any major transit stop
  • Within 500 feet of any permitted event or any school while children are coming or going, during a recess period or within 30 minutes before or after the school’s opening or closing

While the above rules cover both stationary and roaming sidewalk vendors, the following apply only to stationary vendors, pending Coastal Commission approval:

  • Vendors shall not vend within 50 feet of another stationary sidewalk vendor in any city-designated promenades. (In promenades defined as high-traffic sidewalks, vending is prohibited.)
  • Vendors shall not vend within five feet of any above-ground structure.
  • Vendors shall not vend within 15 feet of any fire hydrant or fire lane.
  • Vendors in La Jolla shall not vend during the summer moratorium on Coast Boulevard between Cave Street and the 200 block of Coast Boulevard South.

Vending at public parks, plazas and beaches
The following provisions are for beach areas, should the Coastal Commission approve:

  • Sidewalk vendors shall stop vending before the designated closing time of any beach area.
  • Vending is permitted between 8 a.m. and sunset in beach areas where there is no designated closing time.
  • Sidewalk vendors shall not vend within 50 feet of another sidewalk vendor.
  • Sidewalk vendors shall not vend within 25 feet of any decorative fountain, statue, monument, memorial or art installation.
  • The city can enact rules and regulations to prohibit vending in any space that would obstruct, damage or otherwise adversely affect the public’s use and enjoyment of natural resources and recreation opportunities or contribute to an undue concentration of commercial activity that unreasonably interferes with the scenic and natural character of a public park.
  • The city can reasonably limit the number of sidewalk vendors in certain parks by requiring sidewalk vendors to obtain an additional park sales permit, such as in Scripps Park and Kellogg Park in La Jolla. With that requirement, it will be unlawful to vend in such parks without such a permit.
  • Sidewalk vendors shall not use amplified or non-amplified sound devices in conjunction with vending, such as speakers, microphones, public address systems, bells and chimes.

Read the full ordinance at ◆