City of San Diego looks to toughen street vendor law

SAN DIEGO — The City of San Diego is looking to tighten its sidewalk vending ordinance by going after vendors who are out of compliance.

On Thursday, the city council’s Community and Neighborhood Services Committee approved an amendment from Councilmember Jennifer Campbell.

“There are few rogue vendors who refuse to follow the rules and they have given us a hard time, in terms of enforcement,” Campbell said.

The city passed a sidewalk vending ordinance in 2022, requiring vendors to have permits and stay out of “no vending zones.”

But complaints are ongoing over unpermitted vendors creating public and safety hazards in high-traffic areas along the coast, Balboa Park and the Gaslamp Quarter.

Business owners and legal vendors who work in the Gaslamp are pushing for stronger enforcement as they deal with confrontations with out-of-town and unpermitted hot dog vendors.

“We’re losing 75% of our business to all these illegal vendors. They just take, take, take and they don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay rent. And we get to physical fights — they want us out,” said Pete Soto, a hot dog vendor.

The new amendments would allow law enforcement to bypass a warning and immediately fine and impound the property of unpermitted vendors who are creating a safety or health hazard.

The amendments also aim to provide clearer language about protecting constitutional rights and protecting public spaces.

Some local vendors who continue to sell without permits and go into banned areas claim what they are selling has a political or religious element and therefore, they’re protected by free speech rights.

And they feel unfairly targeted by tougher enforcement.

“The Gaslamp has severe problems going on — I get it. However, that has nothing to do with artists and performers who should be able to show their art and be able to do that publicly, in public spaces,” said one vendor during the meeting.

An ordinance will be drafted to present to the full city council for a vote, likely by the end of the year.

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