La Jolla Parks & Beaches board OKs letter calling for vending enforcement, but not without opposition

Vendors offers their wares near La Jolla Cove.
(Courtesy of Bob Evans)

While the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board is the latest local group to sign on to a letter to the California Coastal Commission looking to curb sidewalk vending in La Jolla parks, it is the only one thus far to register some opposition.

Both the La Jolla Community Planning Association and La Jolla Shores Association voted unanimously during their July meetings to send the letter. At LJP&B’s July 25 meeting, the group voted 14-2 to do so, with members Catherine Cox and Tim Seery opposed.

“I don’t think this letter will make any difference with the Coastal Commission, but more than that, I voted no because I support vendors and always will,” Seery, who is senior pastor of Congregational Church of La Jolla, said after the meeting. “As a committed progressive, I can’t support the classist efforts of an affluent and privileged community attempting to limit the ways that entrepreneurial working people make ends meet.”

In the board’s vote, LJP&B President Bob Evans customarily abstained, and members John Leek, Jane Reldan and Jon Wiggins abstained without comment. Cox did not comment about her “no” vote.

Evans said the letter stems from discussions that he, Community Planning Association President Diane Kane and Shores Association President Janie Emerson had a few weeks ago “regarding the out-of-control and unenforced commercial vending that has engulfed our coastline parks and beaches and just plain and simple obliterated the natural and scenic beauty and access to the area.”

He said the letter accuses the city of San Diego of violating the San Diego Local Coastal Program, the La Jolla Community Plan and the California Coastal Act by allowing “impermissible retail activity (e.g., sidewalk vending) to impede visual and physical access to ... La Jolla coastline parks and beaches.”

The letter outlines specific sections of the Coastal Act that the group believes are being violated with the continued presence of sidewalk vendors.

An ordinance the City Council passed in March instituted permitting and health and safety regulations for sidewalk vendors.

But many parts of the ordinance that went into effect in most of the city June 22, focused largely on where vendors can operate, must be reviewed and approved by the Coastal Commission before they can be enforced in coastal areas, including La Jolla. It is uncertain when that might happen.

“I am grateful that the Coastal Commission’s process has given vendors this summer of grace where they can continue to operate,” Seery said.

But Evans said the letter asks the Coastal Commission to “issue a cease-and-desist order to the city of San Diego and require the city to enforce the local coastal plan, which prohibits retail activities in La Jolla’s coastline parks and beaches.”

Some local leaders have pointed to a section of the San Diego municipal code that regulates and prohibits certain activities in public parks in the city. It lists “sales of merchandise” as a prohibited activity.

While the city of San Diego waits for the California Coastal Commission to weigh in on its new sidewalk vending ordinance before it can take effect in coastal areas, some local leaders are trying to curtail the vendors who have popped up in places like La Jolla’s Scripps Park by calling for enforcement of existing laws that limit commercial activity in public parks.

“Except for those sales that are protected by the First Amendment, it is unlawful to sell or offer for sale any goods, wares, merchandise, article or thing whatsoever without the written consent of the city manager,” the code reads. Sales protected by the First Amendment “must conform to the city manager’s regulations,” it adds.

La Jolla Parks & Beaches president Bob Evans during the board's July 25 meeting.
La Jolla Parks & Beaches President Bob Evans speaks during the board’s July 25 meeting.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The city’s ordinance would block vending year-round at La Jolla’s Scripps Park, Children’s Pool, the Coast Boulevard boardwalk between Jenner and Cuvier streets, and on main thoroughfares in some business districts, such as the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores, according to local officials. Vendors would be allowed to continue operating on the cross streets and side streets in those areas.

In many other city beach areas and Balboa Park, the ordinance calls for banning vendors during the busy summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The ordinance followed the passage of California Senate Bill 946, which took effect Jan. 1, 2019. The state law’s primary intent is 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 San Diego city report.

Other LJP&B news

Open seat: La Jolla Parks & Beaches member Dede Donovan is moving out of the area and will vacate her board seat. The spot will remain vacant until the board’s annual election in January. Six other seats will be up for grabs during the election.

To be eligible for a board seat, candidates must live, work or own property in the area; represent an organized or special-interest community service or athletic group; or represent a La Jolla community service or advisory group. A candidate also must be at least 18 years old, have attended three meetings during the previous six months and submit a candidacy application that includes a statement of qualifications.

Next meeting: La Jolla Parks & Beaches will not meet in August. The next scheduled meeting is at 4 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26, online or at a location to be determined. Learn more at ◆