Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
Did you know that California passed Senate Bill 946, which legalizes street cart vendors?
Each city can fashion its own regulations to accommodate for health and safety. The Santa Barbara ordinance committee has reviewed the city staff’s recommendations for revised regulations several times.
The stipulations were discussed at last Tuesday’s Santa Barbara City Council meeting, and the council will review them further. Under the proposal, the vendors will pay a $25 annual tax certificate, which is not a permit but a tax identification.
Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez suggested that bilingual city employees walk the areas where the vendors sell, as well as the Eastside, to educate them on the change in street vendor regulations. Several years ago, the city hired a bilingual translator for city council for $95,000. Perhaps this could be part of the translator’s job description.
Some of the regulations include the location/proximity of the carts to any business entrance. They cannot block a business. They cannot be within 500 feet of a school during operating hours.
They cannot block a sidewalk per the Americans with Disabilities Act. In fact, a caller at Tuesday’s city council meeting remarked that often people must go out onto the street to get around some sidewalk vendors.
Vendors are also required to be within 250 feet of a bathroom to wash their hands. There’s no stipulation on whether it must be a public restroom, or whether, if they have the moxie, they can use a restaurant’s bathroom while selling their product outside of said restaurant. We foresee more “customers only” signs on the horizon.
We wonder if the regulations will force the city to build more public restrooms or whether MarBorg will cash in on temporary facilities. Vendors are required to have trash receptacles.
Personal “ID flexibility” was another suggestion of a council member who thinks a library card, a lease or a student ID would suffice for legal identification.
Regarding health concerns, a restaurant has insurance to cover something like food poisoning. What health standards should the public expect from these vendors? Heath certificates are issued by Santa Barbara County, and it is up to the vendor to register for the certificate.
Per Councilmember Meghan Harmon, “… we are going to use the same rules that have kept these people in the shadows and turn them (the rules) upside down and use them to bring this illegal activity on a path to legality.” She purports to legalize a shadow economy. A public commenter has seen five or six carts being unloaded from a flatbed in the Garden Street parking lot at Cabrillo Boulevard — evidence of a larger operation.
Councilmember Eric Friedman asked if there was a way to allow the local cart vendors to have priority for the $25 annual tax certificate.
The city attorney said constitutional issues prevent giving priority to locals.
He reiterated that all vendors have always been required to have a business license. Vendors are also prohibited from selling guns, cannabis, alcohol or prescription drugs. As if that all needed to be clarified.
And get this! Brick-and-mortar businesses are not allowed to sell anything from a cart at any location.
One of the public commenters, protesting the inequitable protocols of street vendors, represented the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show, which takes place Sundays on Cabrillo Boulevard. The commentator reported that the artists pay a $550 license and rental fee for 52 Sundays, weather permitting. And their sales tax is monitored.
The nonprofits and vendors pay $295 for the four days of Fiesta, $60 of which is for liability insurance.
Compare that to the vendors, who pay only $25 for 365 days.
This idea of fostering entrepreneurial endeavors is absurd. How does selling flowers and mangoes help people in a real economy? We suspect this is nothing less than pure exploitation.
These vendors selling these items are probably from Los Angeles and Ventura, and who knows where else. Who is benefiting? Not the vendors standing on corners all over town, selling the same flower arrangements, wrapped in the same color cellophane from uniform carts. That seems more exploitive than entrepreneurial. Also, the vendors don’t have to pay what the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show people pay. Who says — and by what criteria is it judged?
Another suggestion by the city council is a one-year time frame to report back complaints by the citizens and the brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs. City staff work weekdays. How will the complaints be fielded on weekends since these are time-sensitive issues?
Councilmember Kristen Sneddon asked if the vendors could make an appeal to a citation for not adhering to the locations — i.e., where they can and can’t be — or other violations.
What would the cost of an appeal be, for a permit that is only $25, and at what cost to the city?
Councilmember Harmon wants a moratorium on fines for a year, “… with COVID and all …”
We have the midterm elections in November; didn’t she get the memo? COVID is over, and government entities are backtracking all over themselves. Although this moratorium would be for a year, it was suggested after a year that the vendors would only get a warning for not following the protocol.
There’s the matter of the protocol for street vendors who need translators. Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez requested one-on-one training to help these vendors understand the system, yet they made it here without speaking English.
We wonder who is documenting the sales tax and how it is being collected. Where is the equity in such a loose system of a flexible ID, a year’s worth of warnings, no insurance?
It is incumbent on the food vendor to contact the health inspector for their health permit. How likely is that?
With all these considerations at stake, Councilmember Harmon says we should just “trust” that it will all be OK.
The good news about this ordinance is that at least some requirements are in place. Surely carts should be left in New York City or Puerto Vallarta, but with our sanctuary state’s magnanimous open border policy, we can at least, do our best to insist on some protocols and standards.
“Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.”
— Mandy Hale