With Friday Deadline to Submit Comments, Vendors Demand Public Hearing/Extended Comment Period for Changes to Rules for Palisades Park and the Santa Monica Pier

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On March 31, the City of Santa Monica proposed a set of new rules for street vendors in Palisades Park and the Santa Monica Pier. The new rules propose a lottery system for eleven permitted spaces in Palisades Park as well as a host of other changes. Interested parties have until Friday, April 21, to submit comments via email to vending@santamonica.gov before the rules are finalized. A full list of the rules can be found at the end of this article.

Some vendors are concerned about how the rules will impact their livelihoods, and they are asking for an extended timeline and a public hearing. They say that one email blast and and taking comments via email is not sufficient to bring in the robust commentary that the matters deserve.

“Some vendors are very savvy; others are not fully literate in English. Requesting public comment to come via email is a slap in the face,” explains Cynthia Anderson-Barker, a lawyer representing a coalition of vendors pro-bono. “They are requesting a large public meeting with the invite going out to all factions of the street vendor community. They would like concerned council members and decision makers to attend. This public meeting to solicit input from the vendor community is in the spirit of Councilman Jesse Zwick’s motion.”

The proposed rules were released ten days after a contentious city council debate about a motion authored by Councilmembers Caroline Torosis, Oscar De La Torre, and Jesse Zwick that required “that staff engage in meaningful consultation with persons authorized to vend.” The legislation that authorized the lottery system was passed last August by the Council after “input from street vendors.” None of those represented by Anderson-Barker were aware that changes had been proposed, much less had a chance to weigh in on them, last year.

The De La Torre/Torosis/Zwick motion passed 5-2, with Councilmembers Phil Brock and Lana Negrete in opposition. The pair seemed to object to language requiring a “culturally competent and linguistically appropriate manner” of engagement. Brock and Negrete accused the legislation’s authors of undoing years of improvement and outreach while disparaging local police and code enforcement efforts.

“The people closest to the problems are the ones we should be listening to,” said De La Torre after announcing the motion. “We’re not being as responsive as we should be to end the acrimony that exists between vendors.”

While opposing the motion, Negrete argued that “by putting this forward you’re saying that staff isn’t ‘culturally competent.’” She then broke down the racial demographics of the city’s police and code enforcement teams that work on vending issues at the pier.

There was nearly no mention during the debate of the proposed rules that would be released just ten days later – likely leaving anyone unfamiliar with the politics around street vending utterly perplexed at the overheated debate. Brock and Negrete repeatedly questioned the motives of the group that introduced the motion and Zwick took offense to charges that he hadn’t done his research. At one point shortly before the vote Mayor Gleam Davis admonished both sides that they were acting like children.

However, the motion likely had an immediate impact, as it called for at least a 20-day comment period for major rule changes and outreach to all licensed vendors so they can participate. The city followed through on those recommendations, which pleased Zwick. However, he also asked the city to go further in future outreach efforts but stopped short of calling for a longer comment period for these rules.

“I am happy to see that the policy proposed by Councilmember Torosis, de la Torre, and myself, in which all permitted street vendors are given an opportunity to provide meaningful feedback on newly proposed city vending rules and regulations, is being speedily implemented by the city,” Zwick wrote in an email to Next.

“Going forward, I would like to see greater in-person opportunities for vendors to digest new regulations and provide feedback, as the current system of electronic communication is insufficient given the low literacy levels, language barriers, and digital divide issues that many vendors experience.”

As alluded to by De La Torre, not all vendors are on the same page when it comes to the rules, and acrimony exists between different factions to the point where there have been acts of physical violence over access to the most lucrative spaces. The city hopes a lottery system can help end or at least reduce that acrimony by letting people know ahead of time which space they will have sole access to on a given day. But for Anderson-Barker and the vendors with whom she works, a lottery system for only eleven spaces is insufficient to support the vibrant street vendor culture that the pier is famous for – and is unfair to the vendors.

“Eleven spaces isn’t enough,” Anderson-Barker said. After acknowledging the tensions and even violence among vendors in the past, she went on to argue that the city opted “to give $3 million (annually) to the police to ram  up enforcement” instead of “creating enough space for vendors.” 

The email sent to vendors from the city announcing the public comment period and new rules can be found below :

Dear City of Santa Monica Permitted Vendor-

Last August, with the goal of expanding economic opportunities for our local, permitted sidewalk vendors, the Santa Monica City Council approved a change to the City’s local vending law that would allow a new system for stationary vending in the 100-to-500-foot “buffer zone” at the southern end of Palisades Park. The law currently only permits roaming vending in this area.

City staff are now developing a system to allocate space for permitted stationary vending at designated marked spaces in this part of Palisades Park. Our goal is to create a fair, equitable system that increases opportunity for vending in this desirable area while also ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of all visitors and preserving the scenic and natural character of Palisades Park.

We want your input on how to structure this new pilot program. Specifically, we are asking for your feedback on:

·       How the spaces should be assigned – we are currently planning on an email sign-up and confirmation system

·       How often vendors should have to rotate to have access to the spaces – we believe assigning each space to a vendor for one day may be the most practical

·       How far in advance the spaces should be assigned – we have heard that 3-4 days advance assignment is desirable for vendors to plan their supply inventory

·       Any other aspects of the system you would like to see

In addition, we are planning a series of updates to the Sidewalk Vending Administrative Regulations – the rules for vending in Santa Monica – to improve the program overall. A summary of those changes is included below.

Please respond directly to this email address, vending@santamonica.gov, with your feedback and suggestions by Friday, April 21, 2023.

Thank you,

City of Santa Monica Staff

Planned Changes to Sidewalk Vending Regulations

  • Section 3.3 of the R&R – Design and Dimension Requirements 
    • Increase dimensions to allow slightly larger carts or hitched carts for stationary vending only
    • Increase dimensions to allow slightly taller carts for roaming vendors 
  • Section 3.5 – General Operational Requirements
    • Clarify – motorized carts are not permitted
    • Increase distance – Vendors must maintain min. 10-feet (currently 5-feet) from another vendor 
    • Increase clearance – Vendors must maintain 5-feet (currently 4-feet) clearance on the sidewalk or pathway 
    • Clarify – City has the right to inspect vending carts/equipment prior to issuance of vendor permit
    • Clarify – Vendor permit holder/licensee responsible for the vendor operation/actions of his/her employees 
  • Section 4.2 – Specific Location Restrictions 
    • Add – No vending within 25-feet of any permitted parklet or approved outdoor dining area 
  • Section 4.3 – Special Regulations for the Parks and Beach 
    • Increase – Unlawful to vend within 30-ft of Bike Path (currently 25-ft)   
  • Section 4.4 – Special Regulations for the Pier 
    • Clarify – Unlawful to vend within 100-ft of the Pier
  • Add Section 4.6 – Special Regulations for 1500 block of Palisades Park 
    • Electronic Space Allocation System 
    • System Guidelines 
    • Palisades Park Operations 
  • Section 5.1 – Business License – Suspension, Revocation, or Denial 
    • Clarify and add – When a vendor permit is revoked, Per SMMC 6.04.260 the license/permit is revoked for a period of 12-months and another permit shall not be granted to such person 
  • Section 5.2 – Cessation of Operations of a Sidewalk Vendor 
    • Add language – to clarify instances where the City may order sidewalk vendor to immediately cease operations 
  • Add Section 5.5 – Inspection Frequency 
    •  Add language to clarify that enforcement staff have the right to inspect vending operations to ensure compliance with State, County, and local laws.

ESPANOL

Estimado Vendedor Autorizado de la Ciudad de Santa Mónica-

El pasado mes de agosto, con el objetivo de ampliar las oportunidades económicas de nuestros vendedores locales autorizados, la alcaldía de Santa Mónica aprobó un cambio en la ley de venta local que permitiría un nuevo sistema de venta estacionaria en la zona de 100 a 500 pies en el sur de Palisades Park. Actualmente, la ley sólo permite la venta ambulante en esta zona. 

El personal de la ciudad está desarrollando un sistema para asignar espacio para la venta estacionaria permitida en espacios marcados designados en esta parte de Palisades Park. Nuestro objetivo es crear un sistema justo y equitativo que aumente las oportunidades de venta en esta zona tan deseada, mientras garantizando al mismo tiempo la salud, la seguridad y el bienestar de todos los visitantes y preservando el carácter escénico y natural de Palisades Park. 

Queremos su opinión sobre cómo estructurar este nuevo programa piloto. En concreto, le pedimos su opinión sobre:

  • Cómo deben asignarse los espacios: actualmente estamos planificando un sistema de inscripción y confirmación por correo electrónico. 
  • Con qué frecuencia deben rotar los vendedores para acceder a los espacios: creemos que lo más práctico sería asignar cada espacio a un vendedor por un día. 
  • Con cuánta anticipación deben asignarse los espacios: hemos oído que es conveniente asignarlos con 3-4 días de anticipación para que los vendedores puedan planificar su inventario.
  • Cualquier otro aspecto del sistema que le gustaría ver.

Además, estamos planeando una serie de ajustes al Regulaciones Administrativas de Venta Ambulante – las reglas para la venta en Santa Mónica – para mejorar el programa en general. Un resumen de estos cambios se incluye a continuación.

Por favor, responda directamente a esta dirección de correo electrónico, vending@santamonica.gov, con sus comentarios y sugerencias antes del viernes, 21 de abril 2023. 

Muchas gracias,

Ciudad de Santa Mónica

Cambios previstos en las regulaciones sobre venta ambulante:

  • Sección 3.3 – Requisitos de diseño y dimensiones
    • Aumentar las dimensiones para permitir carros levemente más grandes o carros enganchados para venta estacionaria solamente
    • Aumentar las dimensiones para permitir carritos levemente más altos para vendedores ambulantes
  • Sección 3.5 – Requisitos generales de funcionamiento
    • Aclarar – no se permiten carritos motorizados
    • Aumentar la distancia – Los vendedores deben mantenerse a un mínimo de 10 pies (actualmente 5 pies) de otro vendedor
    • Aumentar el espacio libre – Los vendedores deben mantener un espacio libre de 5 pies (actualmente 4 pies) en la acera o camino
    • Aclarar – La ciudad tiene el derecho de inspeccionar los carros/equipos de venta antes de la expedición del permiso de vendedor
    • Aclarar – El titular del permiso de vendedor es responsable de la operación y las acciones de sus empleados
  • Sección 4.2 – Restricciones específicas de ubicación
    • Agregar – Prohibida la venta a menos de 25 pies de cualquier parklet permitido o área aprobada de restaurante para comer al aire libre
  • Sección 4.3 – Regulaciones especiales para parques y playas
    • Aumentar – Prohibida la venta a menos de 30 pies del carril de bicicletas (actualmente 25 pies)  
  • Sección 4.4 – Regulaciones especiales para el muelle
    • Aclaración: ilegal vender a menos de 100 pies del muelle.
  • Añadir sección 4.6 – Regulaciones especiales para el bloque 1500 de Palisades Park
    • Sistema electrónico de asignación de espacios
    • Directivas del sistema
    • Operaciones en Palisades Park
  • Sección 5.1 – Licencia comercial – Suspensión, revocación o denegación
    • Aclarar y añadir – Cuando un permiso de vendedor es revocado, por SMMC 6.04.260 la licencia/permiso es revocada por un periodo de 12 meses y otro permiso no será otorgado a tal persona.
  • Sección 5.2 – Cese de Operaciones de un Vendedor Ambulante
    • Agregar lenguaje – para clarificar las instancias en las que la Ciudad puede ordenar al vendedor el cese inmediato de sus operaciones
  • Agregar Sección 5.5 – Frecuencia de Inspección
    • Añadir lenguaje para aclarar que el personal de la ciudad tiene el derecho de inspeccionar las operaciones de venta para garantizar el cumplimiento de las leyes estatales, del Condado y locales.
Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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