Sidewalk vendors and pushcart operators must pay $38 annually for a permit to sell their wares in San Diego, starting mid-June, under a proposed ordinance approved Tuesday by the City Council.
City staff recommended the new permit fee be as high as $230 per business, but negotiations in the council chambers brought that number down to the same as a business tax certificate in the city. Following the first year of implementation, city staff will release an analysis to determine any fee modifications.
The proposed ordinance was developed by Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, who represents District 2, which includes the street vendor-heavy neighborhoods of Ocean Beach and Pacific Beach. In March, she led an effort to pass regulations restricting where and when sidewalk vendors can operate in an attempt to comply with a state law. The proposal was approved 8-1.
"With this, we can balance the needs of vendors, residents and our public spaces," Campbell said at the time.
On Tuesday, Campbell modified the proposed fee, asking to reduce it to $100 for the first year and then receive analysis from city staff. Council President Pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe asked for a friendly amendment to bring it down to $38 for the first year, which Campbell agreed to.
The proposal was adopted on Tuesday on a 8-1 vote, with Councilwoman Vivian Moreno voting no, citing her frustration with additional fees for working class and immigrant families. She said a relief fund should be set up for those who may not be able to pay fees and would experience loss of income as a result.
The ordinance sets up a system of enforcement which varies for those with and without permits. For a first violation, a warning, followed by fines and ultimately confiscation of the stall and wares.
To enforce the ordinance and educate vendors, a city document estimates 32 new jobs in San Diego's Development Services and Parks & Recreation departments are needed at a total cost of $5.1 million.
In the same document, city staff anticipated 1,000 vendors yearly applying for the permit for around $230,000 total revenue. With the new permit fee approved Tuesday, that predicted revenue drops to around $38,000.
The initial regulations going into effect this summer will impose restrictions on vendors, including when they can sell wares in "high-traffic" areas like boardwalks, beach-facing sidewalks and parks between Memorial and Labor days.
It also sets up parameters for where vendors can physically set up — for example, 15 feet from another vendor, 50 feet from a "major transit stop" and 100 feet from any sidewalk or street closure.
The city's previous laws were adopted in 2000, with minor updates since.
Senate Bill 946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, signed into law by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, allows cities and counties to regulate sidewalk vending where the objective is directly related to public health, safety and welfare.
However, "perceived community animus or economic competition does not constitute an objective health, safety or welfare concern," a city document reads.
The law also allows cities and counties to establish regulations within parks to prevent an "undue concentration of commercial activity which would unreasonably interfere with the scenic and natural characteristics of the park."