San Bernardino City Council hosts sidewalk vending study session, discusses ordinance amendments

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Courtesy photo: San Bernardino City Council and city staff are reviewing potential amendments to the street vending ordinance to leverage enforcement of street vending within city limits, for the safety of the community.
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On August 5, San Bernardino City Council held a sidewalk vending study session to discuss potential amendments to the city’s 2019 street vending ordinance.

“Today we’re only going to study the street vending ordinance and its implications. We’re going to allow city staff to go through the presentation and we’ll follow it by all of our questions. We’re not making any decisions tonight,” said Mayor John Valdivia.

Before discussion, 10 public comments were shared via voicemails and emails, which were read by city staff.

“I’m requesting city council to table this item on street vending because there is no attempt to reach the people most affected by the proposed changes. I request the city of San Bernardino to stop its enforcement operations until a complete accessible outreach and education strategy is established that includes input from vendors and community organizations. I ask that the city council and staff work with vendors and the Inland Coalition for Justice to ensure that we are all on the same page as we move forward,” said Jessica Hernandez, resident.

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In 2019, the State of California adopted an ordinance to prohibit local jurisdictions from issuing criminal arrests for sidewalk street vending.

Along with the state ordinance, the city of San Bernardino adopted its own additional street vending ordinances to abide by.

“The current city ordinance on street vending is inclusive of obtaining an encroachment permit from the city’s Public Works Department, obtaining liability insurance covering up to $1,000,000 and listing the city as an additional insured, they’re required to have a sellers permit from the California Tax and Fee Administration, they must bring in identification, and food vendors must hold a permit form the health department, and all employees must have a food handler’s card,” said Telisha Lopez, City of San Bernardino finance business regulations manger.

In regard to amendments to the current ordinance, city staff presented two potential amendments for council to consider approving at a later date.

“Mayor and members of the city council, I’m going to walk you through some of the areas where we are recommending some amendments to be made to the ordinance that is in place. The first is to add an additional exemption for first amendment vending and this comes out of the city of Los Angeles. This item is to exempt first amendment vending. This means that there are certain categories of activities that fall under the first amendment; which is traditional first expressive speech…which could be handing out pamphlets or newspapers, that will be exempt,” said Albert Maldonado, associate city attorney.

“The second exemption is artistic and expressive compositions by himself or herself; if the vendor wrote a book, they paint or they have a CD, if they created it themselves and it encompasses a communicative message, it will be exempt. The final category is performances, for example, someone singing on the sidewalk or playing guitar, those are considered performances that are expressive or artistic, so those would be exempt from the enforcement,” continued Maldonado.

According to Maldonado, the second potential amendment to the street vending ordinance incorporates binding the county health code with the city of San Bernardino’s health code.

“The problem in the municipal code is it said only the county can enforce the environmental health code. So we need an amendment that the city of San Bernardino has the authority to enforce the county’s health code by reference,” concluded Maldonado.

At the meeting it was shared that the city of San Bernardino is looking into generating a street vending task force to include of various agencies, groups and organizations in the city. For more information, visit sbcity.org.

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