Vague vending: City officials looking to strengthen sidewalk vending enforcement in beach areas

Elisabeth Frausto | September 12, 2023

With the presence of vendors persistent in La Jolla’s Scripps Park despite an ordinance to ban such activity, city officials are looking to clarify language to help with enforcement. 

Across the city of San Diego, vendor activity in public spaces was largely curbed with an ordinance amending the Municipal Code beginning in June 2022.

The ordinance became eligible for enforcement in the coastal areas on Feb. 1 after the California Coastal Commission approved the new regulations.

In La Jolla, vending is no longer permitted at any time at Scripps Park, The Children’s Pool, Coast Boulevard from Jenner to Cuvier streets, and the La Jolla Shores boardwalk. 

“It’s clear the ordinance is being enforced,” said Andrew Sharp, director of communication for the city attorney’s office. 

Enforcing the ordinance is largely carried out by Rangers from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, with assistance from the San Diego Police Department, according to city spokesperson Benny Cartwright.

The ordinance does allow for activity by those vendors or others “engaged solely in artistic performances, free speech, political or petitioning activities, or engaged solely in vending of items constituting expressive activity protected by the First Amendment, such as newspapers, leaflets, pamphlets, bumper stickers, or buttons.” 

Ordinance language “needs clarity regarding what constitutes ‘vending’ versus ‘free speech,’ which includes political and religious speech,” Cartwright said. “There are some vendors who have exploited this lack of clarity.”

San Diego City Councilmember Jennifer Campbell, whose office brought forth the original ordinance, “ will be bringing forward changes” to clarify the ordinance’s language this fall, Cartwright said; San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s office is collaborating.

Campbell’s office is “still working out the details” of the language, said Elsa Sevilla, the councilmember’s director of communications; the new language may be ready in late September to early October, Campbell’s Chief of Staff Venus Molina said.

When the language is ready, the city attorney’s office is “always available to support that conversation,” Sharp said. 

“These amendments will ensure there is no ambiguity on who is subject to regulation under the ordinance while improving our enforcement efforts,” Cartwright said. “This clarity will take the guesswork out of enforcement and ensure that the citations for ordinance violations don’t get thrown out by the administrative judges who adjudicate them.”

In the meantime, he said, the Parks & Recreation Department will create zones “where those claiming ‘freedom of expression/speech’ can operate.” 

No further information about where those La Jolla zones will be were provided.

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