The Coast News Group
A no vendors zone sign in Los Angeles
a sign indicating a “no vendors” zone in Los Angeles. Cities around California, including San Marcos, are grappling with how to regulate the growing industry. Courtesy photo
CitiesNewsSan MarcosSan Marcos Featured

Rejected San Marcos vendor ordinance may not return

SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos City Council almost approved a vendor ordinance with a strict set of regulations for street merchants back in October but tabled the issue after a council member changed her vote.

Today, it remains unclear when the council will revisit the issue, if at all.

The controversial ordinance, which sets regulations for sidewalk vendors and permit fees, is just one example of many efforts by local governments across California to regulate an industry that hits close to home for many residents.

The council on Oct. 12 reversed an earlier decision approving restrictions on street vendors and talked about workshopping the issue after facing backlash from some San Marcos residents.

Deputy Mayor Sharon Jenkins changed her vote at the second reading of the ordinance after hearing public comments from dozens of enraged residents and community services organizations. The other no votes came from councilmembers Maria Nuñez and Randy Walton.

Walton, who was adamantly against the ordinance from the start, told The Coast News that a workshop has not been scheduled, even though Jenkins had requested that the council workshop the issue as soon as possible.

However, Tess Sangster, economic development director for the City of San Marcos, said the council didn’t actually vote on a motion to hold a workshop.

The proposed regulations covered licenses and permits, operating conditions, prohibited activities, hours of operation and more.

It also required that vendors obtain multiple different licenses and said that vendors may have to show proof of insurance.

Food vendors in Oceanside, which has a vendor ordinance in place.
Food vendors tend to their grills at the Sunset Market in downtown Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson

Public speakers, including Alliance San Diego, Sierra Club North County, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and more, all argued that the ordinance would be detrimental to immigrant and minority communities, as well as low-income families.

“This ordinance would disproportionately impact immigrants and People of Color and further penalize individuals for being low income,” said Patricia Mondragon from Alliance San Diego. “Sidewalk vending is a culturally significant means of income for immigrant families and an accessible entry into entrepreneurship for low-income individuals.”

Many speakers also argued that the ordinance was too strict, citing restrictions on how far away (in feet) vendors must be from the curb, from any buildings, from other vendors, from bus stops, from fire hydrants, from public restrooms, from major intersections, from a public trash can, etc.

City Manager Jack Griffin said that staff recommended the ordinance after the November 2020 election cycle where the city saw multiple politically-motivated vendors pop up that prompted a lot of complaints citywide.

“We would have liked, last year when those popped up, because they came out of nowhere, to have had a little bit more ability to be more organized and managed about where they set up and how they set up,” Griffin said. “It’s more of a recent history issue, but I think it would be naïve to not see that again in the future.”

“I don’t think there’s anything in here that any of those vendors would have found to be so onerous that they wouldn’t set up shop in San Marcos, and I think our fee structure is far less than most other cities that have attempted to regulate that,” Griffin added.

A similar situation occurred in the City of San Diego back in 2019, when former Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed a vendor ordinance to keep vendors out of tourist-heavy areas.

The city immediately saw backlash from street vendors and residents who argued that the ordinance would disproportionately impact immigrants and people of color.

Cities like Oceanside, Vista, Coronado and National City already have vendor regulations in place. The City of San Diego still does not but is expected to consider regulations, once again, as early as next week.

In Santa Barbara, street vendors may soon be faced with tighter rules as city officials will consider enforcing stricter regulations in the coming weeks.