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San Diego, Coastal Commission reach agreement to allow enforcement of sidewalk vending rules in coastal zone

Vendors do business in La Jolla's Scripps Park.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Coastal residents upset by a growing presence of sidewalk vendors may be breathing a sigh of relief in coming months, as San Diego officials said Aug. 26 that an agreement has been reached to allow enforcement of new city vending regulations in the coastal zone without a hearing by the California Coastal Commission.

City Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell’s office said the Coastal Commission has agreed to withdraw its review of the local ordinance, which was passed earlier this year and took effect in most of the city June 22.

A recent request to extend the commission’s review period for the ordinance for up to a year also will be withdrawn.

Representatives of the Coastal Commission could not immediately be reached for comment.

The agreement was reached after recent meetings among representatives of Campbell, Mayor Todd Gloria and the Coastal Commission, according to Campbell’s office.

“I want to thank the Coastal Commission for helping the sidewalk vendor ordinance move forward so it can be implemented citywide, including in the beach areas,” Campbell, who represents District 2 (including Point Loma, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach and Mission Beach) said in a statement.

After the ordinance went into effect, restrictions focusing largely on where vendors can operate could not be enforced in the coastal zone until the Coastal Commission gave its approval. The reason given was that the ordinance would require a change to Local Coastal Programs, which serve as planning documents for coastal communities. Other regulations for permitting and health and safety are in effect.

The lack of enforcement in coastal areas seemed to lure more vendors to places like La Jolla, where many residents already were agitated by the tents and tables that they say are ruining the area’s appeal.

With summer in full swing and vacationers continuing to flock to La Jolla’s parks and beaches, sidewalk vendors are establishing an increasing presence in places like Scripps Park at The Cove, locals say.

However, withdrawing the need for a review allows all the regulations, except those pertaining to pushcarts, to be enforceable citywide.

“The Coastal Commission is all about access to the beach, and what we are doing is regulating the business that takes place there,” said Venus Molina, Campbell’s chief of staff. “So we will withdraw our original application and will resubmit the pushcart piece of the ordinance for Coastal Commission review.”

Hoping for enforcement by the end of the year, Molina said the item will go before the City Council in the next month or so for the first of two hearings — one for discussion and one for a vote. The regulations would go into effect 30 days after the second hearing.

“Mayor Gloria heard the concerns of La Jollans and my office,” said City Councilman Joe LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla. “The impact of unregulated street vending, exacerbated by its enforcement outside of the coastal zone, on La Jolla’s shoreline parks is unacceptable. [This is] an accelerated solution.”

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.

Rangers will be tasked with enforcement at shoreline parks and beaches, and code enforcement officers will manage the inland areas.

“I was glad to see the Coastal Commission tell the city to move forward with the sidewalk vending enforcement,” said Bob Evans, president of the La Jolla Parks & Beaches board. “I’m equally frustrated that it’s taking so long and wasting so much of the community’s time for the city to actually implement. … We leaders of the La Jolla community groups were recently working closely with representatives from the Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach town councils, and together we engaged with the Coastal Commission to let the agency know our communities’ thoughts and frustrations. We’re glad the CCC listened.”

“Maintaining the coastline for scenic and natural beauty is a positive step forward and is a win for everyone,” Evans added. “In this urban environment that we all live in, the limited open spaces and beaches and parks need to be preserved for the many recreational opportunities available, people seeking and enjoying nature, and all those that want to connect with the environment.”

Janie Emerson, president of the La Jolla Shores Association, said enforcement is the key to the new regulations succeeding.

“Without enforcement it means nothing,” she said. “We’re all very concerned about it because the track record with the rangers has not been good. The Police Department has done a good job where they can, but they aren’t the ones designated to enforce this.”

The city’s 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.

Read the full ordinance at bitly.ws/rToY. ◆

Updates

3:44 p.m. Aug. 29, 2022: This article was updated with additional comments.