SAN DIEGO — Street vendors are popping up all over San Diego, allowed to set up shop virtually anywhere within city limits with few regulations.
One of the main places they’re gathering to sell goods is along the Mission Beach boardwalk. Mission Beach Town Council President and local business owner Matthew Gardner said he’s had enough.
“The most egregious part of it to me is that it’s just trampling over the beautified public park space that they’ve decided to set up shop all over,” Gardner said.
On any given weekend and some weekdays, vendors will squeeze in wherever they can, selling everything from hot dogs to jewelry.
“What the city has failed to do is provide any local regulation of this commerce, and as a consequence, you have a situation where there are some parts of our community that are overrun with street vendors,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. “And people are understandably upset.”
To understand how San Diego got to this point, it is important to understand how it all began. Former California Governor Jerry Brown passed AB 946 in 2018, also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which decriminalized sidewalk vending statewide. The intent was to bring vendors out from the shadows as viable contributors to local economies.
The state left it up to each city to regulate, and Coronado, National City and Oceanside all had rules in place within months. The City of San Diego still does not.
“The right to time to have passed these regulations was about two years ago,” Gloria said. “Here we are today, just cleaning up after this. And you’ve seen similar things to this before — scooters, vacation rentals, things that have been authorized, but the city just sort of stuck its head in the sand. We’re not sticking our head in the sand any longer.”
Business owners are frustrated, saying they pay high rent to run their shops legally.
“From the business owner perspective, it’s very frustrating,” Gardner said. “Out there in front of my shop, I’m looking at 200+ vendors every single day in the heat of summer, when I need to make the most money I can.”
The majority of street vendors have set up in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, two beach communities in Council President Dr. Jennifer Campbell’s district.
“We’re meeting with various groups, including vendor groups that support vendors. We want to make it fair to all, we want to make it balanced,” she said.
Campbell and Gloria said they expect city council to consider new regulations in the next 30 days, and the mayor has set aside $250,000 to assist vendors who will need to buy permits or special licenses to get up to code.
“We’re going to provide sensible regulations that address the safety concerns that are present in many of our communities while allowing the intent of the state legislation, which was microlevel commerce, allowing people to get their small businesses off the ground,” Gloria said.
FOX 5 contacted vendors to hear their thoughts, but they declined to be interviewed on the record, saying they have already been harassed by area residents.
One vendor did say he was just selling items during the summer for extra cash and plans to pack up and close his stand very soon.