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Santa Monica Set to Expand 30-Year-Old Sidewalk Vending Program

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

April 8, 2019 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to expand Santa Monica's sidewalk vending program to conform to a state law meant to boost economic opportunities for immigrant and low-income communities.

The Council's action comes after former Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill last September decriminalizing street vending -- both roaming and stationary -- across California.

Under the new law, staff said, cities "may adopt requirements imposing certain regulations on the time, place, and manner of sidewalk vending, but may not regulate on the basis of economic competition or perceived community animus."

Staff is proposing that the council adopt an emergency ordinance updating the Municipal Code to establish a Comprehensive Sidewalk Vending Program with new requirements and guidelines.

The City -- which has prohibited sidewalk vending outside of the Third Street Promenade and Pier for three decades -- must balance the new vending opportunities with the public safety of the nearly 9 million annual visitors to the 8.3 square-mile city, staff said.

"The issue is not a straightforward one, as the presence of vending activity in our most crowded and high-traffic public spaces can place at risk public safety and health, potentially creating obstructions for pedestrians and emergency access routes," staff wrote in its report.

Santa Monica's 1989 law prohibited sidewalk vending anywhere in the city except for licensed operators on the Promenade and the Pier.

The Promenade cart program allows as many as 32 independent licensed cart operations, while the pier program allows some 13 licensed vendors.

The proposed emergency ordinance would allow staff to immediately address illegal vending activities taking place on and around the Pier, especially on the deck and stairs abutting the north side, staff said.

These areas "have become overcrowded with unpermitted vendors in recent months causing significant access obstructions, (with) multiple fights having broken out among vendors battling over turf there resulting in numerous arrests," staff said.

The ordinance also would "allow outreach and education to aspiring vendors to immediately ramp up, opening the pathway for permitted and lawful vending in compliance with the new law and regulations."

The ordinance proposed by staff would prohibit vending on the Pier, Pier Bridge, "the beach immediately adjacent to or under the Pier, and within 100 feet of any entrance or exit to the Pier or Pier Bridge."

Location's designated and managed under a City licensed program would be exempt from the ban.

On the Promenade, staff is recommending "prohibiting stationary vending within 25 feet of the Promenade and on the Transit Mall, while allowing roaming vending subject to requirements set forth in the Administrative Regulations."

Staff also is proposing that vending in City parks and at Santa Monica State Beach be allowed if the vendor obtains all applicable city, county and state licenses and permits and abides by the new guidelines.

The recommended policy, staff said, "places public safety as the highest priority."

At the same time, it "reflects the notion that a safe, well-regulated sidewalk vending program would represent an expansion of economic opportunity, particularly for immigrant workers whose livelihoods have in some cases been imperiled by federal immigration enforcement policies in recent years."

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