Before I get into the reasons I am writing this letter, I feel I must tell you something about myself. I am a First-Generation American, of Mexican descent. Both of my parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1950’s, initially undocumented. They both briefly worked in California, while undocumented, but eventually achieved their legal resident status. In 1970, my parents were able to purchase a home here in Santa Monica, which my mother still owns and lives in today. My siblings and I were all born and raised in Santa Monica, and educated in SMMUSD schools. I fully understand the plight of the immigrant population, and I am by no means anti-immigrant. That being said, the following is solely my opinion, and does not represent the opinion of anyone else, nor any other entity.
Our historic and iconic Santa Monica Pier, an international symbol of the City of Santa Monica is being destroyed by unpermitted vendors. The pier has survived several storms, since it was built in 1909. It nearly met its fate in May, 2020, if protesters had their way. But now, city officials are not only allowing, but encouraging its slow destruction.
Due to the deliberate inaction by the City Attorney’s office, the vendors have become increasingly brazen, and feel entitled to sell their products where they wish on the pier (in violation of 10.08.440 SMMC- unlawful peddling on the pier). The unpermitted vendors utilize homemade and unsafe carts to sell hot dogs and corn. Grease and oil drips from the vendor’s carts onto the wooden planks of the pier, causing significant damage (in violation of 10.08.410 SMMC- defacing the pier). That grease and oil is also falling through the planks into the ocean below, which I’m sure is unsafe for the marine life below. It also creates an extreme slip hazard to pedestrians on the pier, which in turn becomes a liability to the tax payers.
I understand the passage of SB 946 in 2019 made the act of street vending enforceable only administratively, and not criminally, but it does not restrict local authorities from “requiring compliance with other generally applicable laws” (per SB 946, 51038©(7)). The two I mentioned above should immediately be enforced, along with any other applicable municipal and/or penal codes, which are being violated by the unpermitted vendors.
By allowing the unpermitted food vendors to sell their products, without inspection by the Los Angeles County Department of Health (which SB 946 allows), the city is NOT fulfilling their duty to protect the public. I have seen gross displays of improper food handling by these vendors. I saw a recent photograph depicting a hot dog vendor’s cart inside of a bathroom stall with the vendor, while the vendor relieved himself. I also witnessed a corn vendor allowing his teenage companion to pick clusters of cheese from a container on the cart, with his bare hands, eat the clusters, lick his fingers and repeat the process. This is disgusting and extremely unsafe for the public, who unwittingly purchase and consume food products from these vendors.
The unpermitted vendors DO NOT contribute anything to the local economy. On the contrary, they are a drain on the City of Santa Monica’s maintenance and public safety resources. Not to mention, the damage they are being permitted to cause to the pier and surrounding beach and park areas.
The City Attorney’s office must act now to protect the public’s health and safety, and save the pier from any further damage. Support the efforts of the Code Enforcement and Police Officers, who are trying to keep the public safe and protecting city (taxpayer) property, within the scope of SB 946. Is your inaction due the “optics” of enforcement on “immigrant” vendors and/ or possible backlash from immigrant’s rights groups? Well, think about the immigrants employed by restaurants, located on the pier and the permitted vendors on the pier. They too are trying to survive, but doing it lawfully.
As the son of immigrants and native of Santa Monica, I implore you to act now. Your inaction minimizes the efforts of the millions of other immigrants, past and present, who immigrated to this country for a better life. Your inaction also contributes to the continuing destruction of our beloved pier.
Miguel Rodriguez, Jr., Santa Monica