New City Ordinance to Regulate Street Vendors Goes Nowhere Slowly

Santa Barbara Ordinance Committee Agrees More Public Outreach Needed

Under the proposed city ordinance, Fiesta’s cascarón vendors wouldn’t be allowed to place their confetti eggs directly onto the sidewalk, as they have for decades. | Credit: Caitlin Kelley

There were far more questions than there was enthusiasm for a proposed new ordinance to regulate where, when, and how street vendors can ply their wares by the Ordinance Committee of the Santa Barbara City Council. The committee, chaired by Councilmember Michael Jordan, opted on Tuesday not to forward the proposed ordinance to the council as a whole, at least for the time being. 

The push for the new ordinance originated from inside City Hall itself, with the heads of the city’s Waterfront Department, Parks and Recreation Department, and its new Economic Development Czar, all acting in response to a state bill passed two years ago that effectively gave street vendors a regulatory pass in the interest of fostering entrepreneurship in economically underserved and poorer neighborhoods. As a result of that bill, street vendors can now set up shop wherever they want on sidewalks, parks, and public open space, even if doing so intrudes on existing businesses or city concession operations. But the detailed language of of the proposed new ordinance both overwhelmed and underexplained. 

Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez wondered how cascarón vendors — mainstays of the Fiesta celebration — would fare under the new ordinance. They’d have to move their confetti eggs off the sidewalks and onto the new State Street Promenade, he was informed, or place them on a cart, stand, or rack, but the eggs could not be placed directly onto the sidewalk, as they have been for decades. Gutierrez didn’t like that answer, nor did he like the idea of regulating up-and-coming entrepreneurs in general. 

Councilmember Kristen Sneddon expressed similar reservations but was more mixed in her reaction. She’d heard complaints about the noisy bells — and other attention-getting stratagems — of some push-cart vendors from mothers with young babies trying to enjoy the quiet of a city park. 

John Doimas, assistant city attorney, noted that some of the new rules addressed basic health and safety concerns; for example, the new rules would require vendors to get clearance from public health inspectors, which currently is not required. 

Councilmember Jordan wondered who was going to enforce the new ordinance and expressed concern that vendors would be allowed to operate too close to existing businesses for his comfort level. 

All three expressed concern that no one from the public showed up to testify one way or the other; more outreach, they agreed, needed to be done.  

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