ESCONDIDO — The city of Escondido is considering local regulations for sidewalk vendors in response to a number of complaints over the past few years.
In August, Councilmember Mike Morasco requested that City Attorney Mike McGuinness bring back an update on sidewalk vending regulations after receiving some of those complaints.
In 2018, the state passed the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act to promote and support sidewalk vending in low-income and immigrant communities. Under the act, sidewalk vendors cannot be prohibited from operating under additional local ordinances.
However, some level of local control over the vendors is still permissible.
Cities may adopt requirements regarding the time, place and manner sidewalk vendors operate. For example, a municipality could place reasonable time restrictions, require vendors to maintain sanitation, and ensure vendors comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
A local ordinance can also require vendors to obtain permits and business licenses and prohibit stationary vendors, not moving vendors, in residential areas. Vendors could also be banned from city parks if there is already a concession agreement with another business near farmer’s markets and swap meets during their limited hours of operation.
The city cannot restrict the number of vendors it has, nor can it require vendors to ask permission from private businesses and property owners. The city also cannot require sidewalk vendors to operate in some regions of the public right-of-way except when related to objective health and safety concerns.
“If you have someone setting up on a sidewalk and people can’t pass and have to go in the street, that can be regulated,” McGuinness said.
Criminal penalties for sidewalk vendors are also not allowed, but they could be required to pay fines starting at $100 for the first violation and as high as $500 after multiple violations. If they refuse to pay, vendors could have their licenses revoked. If caught vending without a license, they could be fined as much as $1,000.
For Morasco, having health permits is important if sidewalk vendors sell food that could make someone sick. He also suggested vendors acquire insurance for their businesses to protect themselves legally.
“One lawsuit is going to put someone out of business,” Morasco said. “It’s something to look into.”
As a matter of safety, Deputy Mayor Tina Inscoe suggested a potential time limit for some of the more rural areas of the city where there isn’t as much street lighting.
Councilmember Joe Garcia was also concerned about safety. He recalled a situation he witnessed where a vendor popup was caught by a gust of wind and landed on a car stopped at a red light, damaging the vehicle.
“I’m more concerned about making sure it’s safe,” he said.
Councilmember Consuelo Martinez was disappointed with the agenda item. She noted that some complaints had nothing to do with sidewalk vendors’ safety but aesthetic purposes like having colorful umbrellas.
“It’s disheartening to hear the complaints when I feel there isn’t a reason,” Martinez said. “Some people don’t even know what they’re selling … they won’t even go and approach them to see if they have a permit; they just assume.”
Martinez also noted that a local sidewalk vending ordinance would be antithetical to her fellow council members’ “pro-business” stance.
“If you have a pushcart, you’re still an entrepreneur,” she said. “They’re contributing members of society.”
Mayor Paul McNamara said he would like to see the city attorney come back with a reasonable ordinance.
“We’re not looking to put them out of business, but at the same time, we need to kind of give them a context to work in our city,” McNamara said.