Visitors to the Santa Monica Pier will no longer pass by carts laden with churros and fruit as they cross the bridge and boardwalk.
City Council voted Tuesday to direct vendors away from the Santa Monica Pier, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica State Beach and Palisades Park within 500 feet of the pier bridge starting in May. Sidewalk vendors will also have to obtain business licenses and health permits. The new local regulations follow a state law that went into effect Jan. 1 that requires cities to establish rules for vendors without prohibiting or criminalizing them.
“Santa Monica’s approach to sidewalk vending strikes an important balance that we hope will create an inclusive, safe and successful business environment for vendors and customers, ensure public safety, and allow our public spaces to be enjoyed by all,” said Mayor Gleam Davis.
The regulations will go into effect immediately as an emergency ordinance in time for the busy summer tourist season. Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta said the prohibitions on vending on the pier and near the pier bridge are urgently needed because the area has become crowded with vendors in recent months, blocking access to the pier and leading to fights among vendors battling over turf that have resulted in multiple arrests.
Two Code Enforcement officers will be stationed by the pier to enforce the new rules and fine vendors who violate them. Vendors will be subject to the citywide default fine of $75 for a first offense, $93.75 for a second offense, and $112.5 for a third offense while the City drafts a specific fine schedule for sidewalk vending.
The state of California’s Safe Sidewalk Vending Act went into effect Jan. 1 following several years of efforts by sidewalk vendors and advocates to decriminalize and legalize vending, which escalated when President Donald Trump was elected and indicated he would crack down on undocumented immigrants, putting many vendors at risk. Cities across California are now moving to regulate vendors, but the law includes restrictions on what rules they can enact.
Unless there are health, safety or welfare concerns, local authorities can’t require vendors to operate in specific areas or prohibit them from doing business in parks. They can, however, limit their hours of operation and require them to obtain a permit for sidewalk vending, a business license and a seller’s permit. Stationary vendors may also be prohibited in residential areas.
The City is invoking health, safety and welfare concerns to ban vendors from the pier, the Promenade and Palisades Park. Congestion in those areas creates public safety issues and, in the case of the park, blocks views, Gupta said.
The City is looking to redirect vendors to areas downtown less prone to bottlenecks, particularly the Esplanade, which runs from the Expo Line station to the Pier. The heavily trafficked south side of the Esplanade could offer an opportunity for safe, profitable street vending, Gupta said.
“Staff is eager to start working … toward an ultimate vision of an activated, dynamic public space that can serve as a global vending bazaar and as a Santa Monica attraction in its own right,” he said.
More than 50 vendors and their supporters attended Tuesday’s Council meeting and several who addressed Council said they had faced arrests and steep fines in the past for selling near the pier and would be willing to obtain licenses and permits.
“If you tell me I’ll have to pay $1,000 to sell, I’ll do it,” said Arturo Elias, who has been vending in Santa Monica for 25 years.
The City has held one bilingual town hall meeting on the new regulations that drew more than 100 vendors and will hold another later this month. It will also conduct a series of bilingual application workshops to assist vendors through the application process.