La Jolla vendors persist despite ‘nasty’ comments from locals

Tish Shufelt's table of crystals and other goods runs on a donation basis.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Sellers at the Children’s Pool and Scripps Park claim exceptions to San Diego’s restrictions based on donations or expressive activity.


Though the number of park vendors in La Jolla’s shoreline areas has waned under new regulations by the city of San Diego, some vendors remain, despite comments from passersby unhappy about their presence.

Three months ago, San Diego officially began full enforcement in coastal areas of an ordinance restricting sidewalk vendors. The law includes regulations for permits and health and safety and aims to block vending year-round at La Jolla’s Scripps Park, Children’s Pool, Coast Boulevard boardwalk between Jenner and Cuvier streets, and the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores.

But uncertainty over First Amendment rights and other complications have resulted in some vendors continuing to operate.

San Diego Parks & Recreation Department rangers, who are tasked with enforcing the ordinance at beaches and shoreline parks, are continuing to do so, city spokesman Benny Cartwright said earlier this month.

However, the ordinance exempts those “engaged solely in artistic performances, free speech, political or petitioning activities, or engaged solely in vending of items constituting expressive activity protected by the First Amendment, such as newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, bumper stickers or buttons.”

But Cartwright said it also allows for “a broad interpretation of what expressive activity is, including art, painting and handmade jewelry.”

City officials also have said that commercial activities seeking donations instead of a set charge are not considered vending.

Since the law took full effect in the coastal zone Feb. 1, Tish Shufelt has continued to set up her table of crystals, handmade jewelry and paintings at the Children’s Pool, as she has the past couple of years.

There are no set prices on Shufelt’s table. “With the new rules, you have to go on a donation basis,” she said. “So I work with people.”

She and her partner make the art, jewelry and stonework on the table.

Shufelt, a retired data engineer, said she sets up her table for fun. “I’m really into spreading good vibes,” she said, “and the healing part of it.”

Rangers have spoken to Shufelt and “vetted” her, she said, and have not given her any trouble.

“But it’s the locals that are really giving us a hard time,” she said. “They can be really nasty.”

Local residents sometimes take her picture and yell at her to leave, Shufelt said. “They don’t look at the differences in how we set up” vs. those who aren’t following the rules, she added.

Najib Sekhtr's handmade wooden items are on display at Scripps Park.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

At Scripps Park, Najib Sekhtr, who displays his handmade wooden boxes and other items, has encountered similar reactions.

“Local people … are really mean,” he said.

“I carve stuff by myself,” Sekhtr said. “This is how I express myself.”

The day enforcement began, Shufelt set up in Ocean Beach to read chakras — focal points of energy throughout the body — and see if it fell under the First Amendment, she said.

“I wanted to find out; I wanted to be in the epicenter of the whole thing,” Shufelt said. “I wanted to stand up for my rights.”

Back in La Jolla, Shufelt said, she has seen rangers ticketing a hot dog and churro vendor at the Children’s Pool. The vendor would add the citations to a growing pile and laugh, she said.

“They know when the rangers are here,” Shufelt said.

Vendors operating illegally may be subject to fines ranging from $200 to $1,000, depending on the number and types of violations. Carts, equipment and goods may be impounded.

Rangers confiscated the vendor’s equipment May 6, Shufelt said. “It was like the food SWAT team,” she said.

Cartwright said he could not immediately confirm that the vendor’s equipment was confiscated.

The La Jolla Shores boardwalk was empty of vendors at midday May 8.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

At La Jolla Shores, residents Keys Allan and Pete Ward said this month that they have observed a vendor selling snacks and fruit drinks at the boardwalk virtually every day.

At midday May 8, the La Jolla Light found no vendors of any kind on the boardwalk or at Kellogg Park.

Rangers “are taking more steps,” Shufelt said. “I’m just grateful to still be out here.”

Cartwright said earlier this month that because “there is currently little guidance in the municipal code of what is and what is not considered vending protected by the First Amendment,” the Parks & Recreation Department is reviewing the code to help clarify “solicitation, performances and merchandise sales that are protected by the First Amendment on public property.”

Shufelt said she wishes there were a vendor association in La Jolla, both to protect those who are following guidelines and for vendors to report violations or disputes.

“Let’s make it consistent,” she said. She added that there should be regulations on tablecloths and canopy covers and how items can be displayed.

“This is my retirement dream,” Shufelt said. “I’m really passionate about it.” ◆