Mission Beach residents, frustrated with the growing number of sidewalk vendors on the boardwalk and surrounding areas, are demanding that the city take action and enforce a municipal code dating back to 1987.
“What we are asking for is the city to enforce a law that’s on the books,” said Larry Webb, president of the Mission Beach Town Council.
Webb was supported by several dozen Mission Beach residents at a rally Tuesday morning. They held signs that read, We Want the Park Back” and “Overrun With Street Vendors.”
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As the residents assembled, street vendors were setting up their popup tents, preparing to sell hats, blankets, jewelry and more. Visitors to the grass area south of the Belmont Park roller coaster are not able to see the ocean because the view is blocked by vendors.
The town council is asking the city to enforce San Diego Municipal Code 63.50, which restricts the use of Mission Beach Park to recreational uses in grass, picnic areas, public open space, public parking, public recreation and meeting facilities. It expressly excludes retail and commercial uses except within the historically rehabilitated Plunge Building and that serve park and beach visitors, such as restaurants, fitness centers and the like, according to the town council.
“There should be no vending here, whatsoever," Webb said. "Families only.”
New sidewalk vending regulations in the city of San Diego are set to go into effect on June 22, but they won’t apply to beach communities, without Coastal Commission approval, which has yet to happen.
“These people are not acting like entrepreneurs," said Tony Felice, who is affiliated with Don'tTrashMissionBeach.org. "Entrepreneurs would have assembled and organized within months. They would have a designated representative. They would have self-governed. They would take pride of ownership. They would clean up, but instead go to our website and see the piles of trash that’s left on the ground. I’m angry/"
While upset residents are taking their wrath out on street vendors for everything from trash to crime, one street vendor said she was harassed and threatened.
“I feel discrimination and I feel intimidated, said Leticia Torres, who displayed a vendor permit and ID badge. "Sad, why? Because I want to work. I want to work. We don’t bother anybody. If I block the boardwalk, I need a rule. If they want to give us a rule, I respect the rule."
Until any rules are actually enforced, residents fear the problem is going to get worse.
“I will guarantee you: If they don’t start enforcement on this, come out here on the 4th of July, every inch of this grass will be covered with a street vendor," Webb said. "Every single inch of it."
Webb said that if the municipal code isn’t enforced after June 22, the town council will file a formal complaint with the Coastal Commission.
“I worked hard on the Sidewalk Vendor Ordinance to bring control to an unregulated market and provide opportunities for vendors,,” said Jen Campbell, Councilmember for District 2. "I will work with the city attorney’s office and city staff to review these concerns further."