Sidewalk Vendors to Require Permits

By Daniel Pineda

Sidewalk vendors across Long Beach will soon have to follow a new set of rules in order to continue operation, according to a new ordinance discussed at the Long Beach City Council Meeting, on Jan. 16.

Until now, Long Beach has had few regulations governing sidewalk vending after the state of California legalized it in 2022. Under the city’s new law, vendors must follow a series of rules limiting where they can sell, and they’ll be required to have a city business license and liability insurance in addition to a required health permit if they’re selling food.

The regulatory framework follows two preliminary discussions the City Council held last year to update its existing ordinance and align it with state Senate Bills 946 and 972, which decriminalized sidewalk vending and simplified the health permitting process for sidewalk vendors, respectively.

According to Deputy City Manager Dr. Tyler Bonanno-Curley, the other purpose of these new rules are, “to come up with a balanced approach where we can encourage and support sidewalk vendors in the city, while also maintaining safety, accessibility and public health.”

What are the new rules?

Under the new ordinance, if it becomes approved by the Long Beach City Council, the following rules would be implemented for sidewalk vendors to follow:

  • Curbside vendors can operate in non-residential areas, excluding parks, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., or during the area’s regular business hours. Roaming vendors can work on residential areas from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or until sunset, whichever is later.
  • Stationary sidewalk vendors can sell within 10 feet of a pedestrian, bike or shared-use path, perpendicular to the path if it is safe to do so.
  • Sidewalk vendors selling “prepackaged non-potentially hazardous food” and whole uncooked produce are exempt from getting health permits.
  • Vendors must have trash cans to collect garbage generated by customers, and can’t use public containers to throw out trash.
  • Vendors’ canopies can be no larger than 10 feet by 10 feet, must be properly secured and maintain 4 feet of clearance for pedestrians, 5 feet in designated high or very high volume pedestrian zones.
  • Vendors can’t use blue and red flashing signs, and their signs can’t face a highway or traffic.

According to the proposed rules, sidewalk vendors would not be allowed to operate within a block of a school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. And while no criminal penalties would be put in place for violating the proposed ordinance, sidewalk vendors could still face heavy fines for not obtaining health or business permits.

Public Response

During public comment, several Long Beach citizens spoke up in protest of the ordinance, stating the new rules – if enacted into law – could bring many financial problems for sidewalk vendors.

According to Van Bowie, one of the speakers against the ordinance, “the proposed permit fees are way too high for sidewalk vendors who make less than $20,000 a year. They [sidewalk vendors] are already often faced with multiple fees and barriers – health permits, inspection fees, business license fees, and on top of that just trying to make their business run.”

To Bowie, people like sidewalk vendors, who are working to put food and money on the table for their families, should have the right to make a living in the city of Long Beach without all these regulations.

“The City of Long Beach thrives off of these street vendors as part of our diverse and vibrant communities,” Bowie said. “The city always prides itself on how valuable these community members are to our local economy. We should treat them as such by having the city subsidize and reduce these proposed fees.”

Reducing the cost of fees for sidewalk vending was something that was brought up multiple times by speakers during public comment. If left un-reduced by the City Council, a health permit for someone just selling prepackaged food like ice cream or chips can cost $300 annually, plus a one-time inspection fee of $250 and another $300 annually for a business license.

“For you [the City Council], $300 may not be a lot, but for someone making twenty thousand a year that’s a ridiculous amount of money,” said Gaby Hernandez, the executive director of Organizing Rooted in Abolition Liberation and Empowerment (ÓRALE).

What Comes Next

The City Council first approved the ordinance last week, and, in a second meeting on Jan. 23, the City Council approved the ordinance a second time, ensuring the certainty of the new regulations for sidewalk vending in Long Beach becoming official. The ordinance will go into effect 31 days after the mayor signs it into law.

City officials say that it will take about six months before they begin enforcing the ordinance. The Long Beach Police Department is not expected to be involved in said enforcement unless any illegal activity is being committed, including vendors selling alcohol or a threat to the public, according to Tyler Bonanno-Curley.

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