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Street Vending - Report on Meeting with the City

Mission Beach Community Members

On August 23rd two months after requesting a meeting with the Mayor and City Council Districts One and Two to discuss enforcement of the Sidewalk Vending ordinance the Coastal Coalition (community leaders from Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla) was granted a meeting.

Ten days earlier the Mayor’s office held a meeting with downtown business leaders to discuss enforcement of the ordinance to which I was invited to by one of the downtown leaders but then uninvited at the last minute by the Mayor’s office. The meeting with the downtown leaders was attended by the Mayor, his Chief of Staff, District Three Councilmember Whitburn and Chief of Police David Nisleit amongst others.

I feel that the Mayor's office showed a great deal of disrespect for our coastal communities. The mayor’s office was only represented by Khota Zaiser and Emily

Piantanesi. The Mayor and his Chief of Staff Paola Avila were not present. Not a criticism of the SDPD, but they were represented by the Commanders of the Northern and Western Division and several of their officers…rather than the Chief of Police. District One and Two city council offices were represented by their respective Chief of Staff’s, Councilmembers La Cava and Campbell did not attend. Chief Park Ranger Michael Ruiz and his lead assistant were in attendance. No representative of the city attorney’s office attended either meeting.

There was no agenda provided ahead of the meeting and we were not told that the meeting would last only 30 minutes until it abruptly ended. The abrupt ending kept key questions from being asked and important concerns from being voiced. Apparently, the Mayor puts a higher priority on downtown businesses than he does our coastal communities’ beaches and parks.

At the meeting Chief Park Ranger Ruiz indicated the ordinance has not been enforced due to the fear of litigation over 1st amendment concerns and that they want to make sure they can defend their actions if there is litigation. So, there is a need to amend the ordinance. Earlier this spring he informed me that the City Attorney had advised them to stop enforcement.

Several weeks ago, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune written by David Garrick said it was not aware of any litigation over the Street Vending Ordinance but was prepared to defend the ordinance if necessary.

The ordinance that the City took several years to write and pass and that the City Attorney’s office approved was only enforced in the coastal zone for a period of two weeks in March. Enforcement was stopped not due to litigation but out of fear of litigation. That raises the question: Why did the City Attorney’s office sign off on the ordinance if it was so unsure of its language that only two weeks into the enforcement of it, they advised the Park Rangers to stop enforcement?

The city’s plan moving forward now has two phases. Phase One according to Ranger Ruiz is to designate “Safe Zones” in our coastal parks or along coastal pathways for what he called "1st amendment vendors". He indicated he would reach out to coastal communities about where to locate these.

I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “1st amendment vendor.” If the City wants to create designated spots for those practicing their right to 1st Amendment speech (political/religious/ideological) that is one thing and something I think our community could support. This is something that is done in National Parks. However, the City has not explained what the standard will be for those allowed to use these spaces.

Until we know what the standard will be for those allowed to use these spaces, I do not believe our community should support the creation of those spaces. If they intend to allow the sale or the request of a donation for any product handmade or not or art etc... under the guise of so-called expressive activity then it is commercial activity and that should be a non-starter for us. If an artist wants to sit and paint and display their creations or handmade jewelry etc… no problem. But, as soon as they ask for money or a donation it becomes commercial activity which should not be allowed.

Phase Two in the city’s plan is to amend the ordinance and Venus Molina the District Two Chief of Staff stated that the plan is to bring the amendments to the full City Council for a vote by the end of September. She requested that the Coastal Coalition reach out to other council offices and urge them to support the amendments. The only problem is no one knows what the amendments will be. Until our community knows exactly what changes are proposed to the ordinance, I don't see how our community can support it in any way. They’re basically asking us for a blank check. They want us to just trust them and that's something they just haven't earned. When I asked when we would see the proposed changes, I did not receive an answer.

Venus Molina also stated that SB946 ties the city’s hands when it comes to enforcement. There is some truth to that. She suggested that we ask State Legislators to amend the bill. I think our community should ask the Mayor's office, the City Attorney's office and each Council Member's offices to PUBLICLY ask the Governor and State Legislators to amend SB946 to allow for stricter enforcement. Our city leaders claim they don't like the restrictions so they should be the ones taking the lead on pushing for changes to the state law.

The Coastal Coalition brought up that the City is in violation of the California Coastal Act by allowing street vending to block access to the coast and that “Views and local character are protected by the Coastal Act (30251): The scenic and visual qualities of coastal areas shall be considered and protected as a resource of public importance.”

Venus Molina claimed once again that if the City went to the Coastal Commission, we wouldn't have an ordinance. There never was and isn't any requirement for the city to ask the Coastal Commission for approval of a street vending ordinance. Since the passage of SB946 not a single coastal city has requested Coastal Commission review of their street vending ordinance. The real question is why the Coastal Commission allows the city to get away with violating the Coastal Act.

Interestingly, in the Sunday August 27th San Diego Union Tribune, there is an article regarding the Coastal Commission taking action against the Paradise Point Resort for blocking public access. In that article it is reported that local leaders including Mayor Todd Gloria and county Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas have pushed for such action. I’m happy to see them asking the Coastal Commission to take action. But, how can Mayor Gloria square asking the Coastal Commission to take action against a private company when he continues to allow the city to violate the same Coastal Act?

So where does our community go from here? Your voice is once again needed!

1. Please contact the Mayors, and District One and Two Council offices and demand to immediately know what that the standard is that will be used for determining who can use their Phase One designated “Safe Spaces” for "1st amendment vendors"

2. Demand to immediately know what the proposed changes are to the Street Vending Ordinance. The city has had months to work on this and should be transparent to both the coastal communities and the vendor community about what changes they are proposing.

3. Ask the Mayor's Office, the City Attorney's office and each council member's offices to publicly ask the Governor and State Legislators to amend SB946 to allow for stricter enforcement. Our city leaders claim they don't like the restrictions so they should be the ones taking the lead on pushing for changes to the state law.

4. Ask Mayor Gloria how he can justify allowing street vendors to block public access to the city’s coastal parks and beaches in violation of the Coastal Act while demanding action against Paradise Point Resort.

5. Reach out to the Coastal Commission asking why the City of San Diego has been allowed to violate the Coastal Act by allowing street vendors to block coastal access and denigrate the natural beauty of our coast line, especially in Mission Beach Park where Commercial Activity is not allowed under the Mission Beach Precise Plan which is the Land Use Plan for Mission Beach.

Contact information for all is below.

Chief of Staff Paola Avila

District Two Community Rep Khota Zaiser

District One Council Member Joe La Cava

District One Chief of Staff

District Two Council Member Jennifer Campbell

District Two Council Chief of Staff Venus Molina

City Attorney Mara Elliott

Lisa Hagge Chief of Enforcement California Coastal Commission

Email addresses for other City Council Offices may be found here

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