Faced with pressure from immigrant rights groups and proponents of racial justice, San Diego has reduced from $ 230 to $ 38 an annual fee for a permit that street vendors have to pay under a new city law that takes effect in mid-June.
The decision to cut the proposed salary by more than 83 percent came amid criticism that Mayor Todd Gloria plans to add 44 employees to the city’s workforce to enforce a law that some community leaders call too aggressive.
The city council, which approved a reduction in fees on Tuesday, has always characterized the new law as a delicate balance between supporting suppliers and preventing them from changing the look of many popular urban locations.
The law, first approved by the council in March, partially bans street vendors in parks and pedestrian areas such as Little Italy and the Gazlamp district. Fines and possible arrests are also provided for violating the rules.
The council gave the new law the necessary second approval on Tuesday morning, so it will take effect in 30 days. The board then approved a fee cut Tuesday afternoon. Both votes were 8-1, with Council member Vivian Moreno voting against.
“I am still concerned about the level of resources that the city is allocating to enforce the ordinance on street vendors,” Moreno said. “You might think that’s the city’s top priority – if you looked at our budget.”
The annual cost of compliance is estimated at about $ 5 million, covering new code enforcers, new park rangers, and new garbage collectors who may have to confiscate bullying vendor carts.
The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium says San Diego’s treatment of street vendors violates the spirit of the 2018 state law, which aims to encourage vending as a new form of entrepreneurship.
“The budget, which is hugely demanding, does little to support sidewalk suppliers and is the antithesis of state law,” the letter said.
While Moreno focused on performance, the rest of the board focused on how much vendors have to pay for annual permits.
Gloria’s staff offered $ 230, board member Dr. Jennifer Campbell offered to reduce it to $ 100, and board member Monica Montgomery Step offered $ 38, an amount equal to the annual cost of a city business license.
“I firmly believe that setting such a high fee ($ 100) will exclude existing and new entrepreneurs,” Montgomery Step said.
Council President Sean Ella Rivera stressed that no one gets rich as a street vendor.
“It’s hard, they work hard and they do it without a lot of other options,” he said. “In the spirit of trying to make sure we’re expanding economic opportunities for those who need it most and appreciate it the most, I think it’s a valuable change.”
Board member Joe LaCawa supported the changes, but expressed concern that the lower fee would benefit more than just the low-income immigrants the council is referring to.
“I’m afraid that many other players will take advantage of the free lease of state land,” LaCawa said. “I’ve heard of bricks and mortar vendors who actually say, ‘I’m going to get out of the rent and install a canopy.'”
LaCava said the city should consider changing permit fees for street vendors based on factors such as income and whether or not they are just starting out.
Many simple businesses complain that most vendors struggle not with immigrants but with employees working in large vendor organizations that deploy carts in high-traffic areas across the city at strategic times.
Council member Marnie von Wilpert has suggested that San Diego may vary rates depending on location, with heavily congested places such as Balboa Park and beach areas being more expensive.
As San Diego is unsure how things will go with about 1,000 vendors who are expected to receive permits, Campbell has successfully persuaded her colleagues to add to the new collection a clause on “sunset” for one year.
In the spring of 2023, city officials will analyze how the new law works, too high or low fees and other consequences and factors.
City officials said they had based an offer of $ 230 on a fee to allow vendors based on a survey of other cities with suppliers, including cities with beach areas.
The proposal to reduce the fee to $ 38 began with Erin Grassi, political director of Alliance San Diego, a group focused on racial justice and related issues.
“The $ 230 offered is extremely high and would cause unnecessary economic hardship for sidewalk vendors,” she told the council. “Without a comprehensive study, it is really impossible to find out how many suppliers there are, what fees will be cost-effective for them and what prices the city actually needs to implement the program.”
For details on the new law, see sandiego.gov/sidewalkvending.