With the passage of Senate Bill 946, cities and counties will not be able to prohibit or criminalize sidewalk vendors since the new state law decriminalizes the activity and considers it “legitimate way of earning a living.” Cities such as Hermosa Beach can now, since the bill took effect on Jan. 1, only regulate sidewalk vending as long as it is consistent with state law.

At its March 12 meeting, the Hermosa Beach City Council grappled with this new bill by discussing a new ordinance knowing the city's municipal code, in sections, is currently in conflict with SB 946. With a number of questions raised, the council voted 3-2 to revise the ordinance and bring it back for a vote.

But without an ordinance in place, the city is in an “unregulated environment.” The city may only regulate sidewalk vending for reasons “directly related to objective health, safety or welfare concerns.”

“If we cannot demonstrate that we have those concerns, then any regulation that serves to limit or restrict sidewalk vending would be vulnerable to a challenge,” said City Attorney Mike Jenkins.

Assistant City Attorney Kathy Shin said the vendors are required to obtain a permit from the Public Works Department and any vendors selling food are required to get a health and safety permit from the county.

“Perceived community animus or economic competition” is not an “objective public concern” to allow city restrictions on sidewalk vendors,” according to Shin, but the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce and business owners raised concerns.

“Sidewalk vendors do not pay rent, which will result in unfair competition to our retailers,” said chamber president/CEO Maureen Hunt. “Our retailers already have to contend with rising rents, high labor and food costs, higher fees, as well as the onslaught of competition from online retailers. This is one more nail in the coffin for brick and mortar business.”

With “carts roaming through our neighborhoods hawking their wares,” former Hermosa Beach councilmember Carolyn Petty, speaking on behalf of the chamber, said that not only is it detrimental to local businesses, street vendors could raise health and safety issues and be a “drain” on city resources including the use of code enforcement officials.

According to a city staff report, SB 946 was enacted to “promote entrepreneurship and to provide economic development opportunities for immigrant and low-income communities.” The arrest of a Rancho Cucamonga woman who was detained for selling corn in a park instigated what became SB 946, which does not include food trucks, according to Jenkins.

According to SB 946, vendors can only be restricted when dealing with safety concerns. Cities can prohibit vending one block from a permitted special event including Farmer’s Market. The possibility of including specific “blackout days” was raised since the city has numerous special events during the year.

Stationary sidewalk vendors may be banned from parks were the city has “entered an exclusive concessionaire agreement,” or disrupts the use of the park or its “scenic and natural character.”

The new ordinance spells out areas the city designated “overcrowded,” including The Strand and Hermosa Avenue between 10th and 14th streets, which may be expanded.

Adding Pier Plaza, for public safety concerns, the council hopes these areas can be regulated. To be consistent with the California Coast Act and the Open Space Lands Act, sidewalk vending permits will not be issued at the pier, Greenbelt or in Noble Park.

Councilmembers Hany Fangary and Justin Massey and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Campbell all voted to have the ordinance revised and to bring it back to a future meeting, maybe as soon as March 26. But even though there has been no “upheaval” when it comes to vendors coming to Hermosa Beach, Councilmember Jeff Duclos and Mayor Stacey Armato felt it was time to vote on the ordinance with revisions discussed at the council meeting.

“It opens ourselves to street vendors coming into our community unregulated,” which concerned Armato.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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