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Bridgett Lewis on sidewalk vending

District 2’s Bridgett Lewis asked me to share the letter that she is sending constituents concerned with sidewalk vending: Dear Torrance Residents, Illegal sidewalk vending has posed a significant challenge to Torrance. The city continues to receive ongoing complaints from individuals regarding the presence of persons setting up pop-up tents, tables, push carts, and other equipment to sell merchandise or food along City streets and public sidewalks. Safe Sidewalk Vending Act In 2018, the California legislature passed, and the Governor signed Senate Bill 946, also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act ("Act"). The Act added Government Code sections 51036 through 51039 to California law. In its stated effort to promote and support low-income and immigrant communities, the legislature made the following findings and declarations in the Act: 1.    Sidewalk vending provides important entrepreneurship and economic development       opportunities to low-income and immigrant communities. 2.    Sidewalk vending increases access to desired goods, such as culturally significant food       and merchandise. 3.    Sidewalk vending contributes to a safe and dynamic public space. 4.    The safety and welfare of the public are promoted by encouraging local authorities to       support and properly regulate sidewalk vending. 5.    The safety and welfare of the public are promoted by prohibiting criminal penalties for       violations of sidewalk vending ordinances and regulations. Other legislative findings included: •     Criminal penalties. •     Locally imposed barriers to entrepreneurship. •     Interest in ensuring the appropriate regulation and traffic flow for pedestrians are a       statewide concern. This legislation applies to general law cities and charter cities such as the City of Torrance. As such, all local jurisdictions in the state are subject to the Act, and any conflicting local ordinances are unenforceable. Under the Act, which went into effect January 1, 2019, local ordinances may not prohibit sidewalk vendors. However, The City may exercise a certain level of local control over operators. The touchstone of local control over these operations primarily relates to objective health, safety, and welfare concerns. In general, the Act addresses sidewalk vending in four contexts: 1.    Generally 2.    In city-owned parks 3.    Within the vicinity of farmers' markets and swap meets 4.    Within temporary special permit areas The statute defines "sidewalk vendors as persons who sell food or merchandise from a pushcart, stand, display, pedal-driven cart, wagon, showcase, rack, or other non-motorized conveyance, or from one's person, upon a public sidewalk or other pedestrian paths." A sidewalk vendor can be roaming or stationary. Opportunities for Local Ordinances and Control The City Council is committed to researching and adopting legal and enforceable ordinances regarding illegal vending. Under the law, a local municipality may adopt specific objective requirements regulating sidewalk vending time, place, and manner if the conditions are directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare concerns. We are working hard to accomplish this, which will take time, as most legislation does. However, as noted above, the California legislature desired to promote entrepreneurship and limit local control over such activities. As a result, under the Act, local jurisdictions (City of Torrance) may not do the following: 1.    Require a sidewalk vendor to operate within specific parts of the public right-of-way,       except when directly related to "objective health, safety, or welfare concerns. 2.    Prohibit a sidewalk vendor from selling food or merchandise in a park owned or           operated by the local authority. 3.    Restrict sidewalk vendors to operate only in a designated neighborhood or area,       except when the restriction is directly related to objective health, safety, or welfare       concerns. However, stationary sidewalk vendors (as opposed to roaming sidewalk       vendors) may be prohibited in areas zoned exclusively residential. 4.    Restrict the overall number of sidewalk vendors permitted to operate within the local       authority's jurisdiction unless the restriction is directly related to objective health,       safety, or welfare concerns. (This is our main argument regarding vending in       Torrance). 5.    Require a sidewalk vendor first to obtain the consent or approval of any                  non-governmental entity or individual (private business or property owners) before they      can sell food or merchandise. (This may impact items as common as school /youth      fundraising activities.) Enforcement – State Law Criminal penalties for sidewalk vending are prohibited. Instead, a local ordinance violation may only be enforced through an administrative fine and under an "ability-to-pay determination." Failure to pay the administrative fine is not punishable as an infraction or misdemeanor, and the city may not impose additional fines, fees, assessments, or any other financial conditions. Despite the lack of "teeth" to enforcement through such fines and penalties, a local authority may rescind a permit issued to a sidewalk vendor for the term of that permit upon the fourth violation and any subsequent violations. For example, if a seller continues to violate the local ordinance by selling without a permit. In this case, the city may institute another fine schedule not exceeding the following: $250/first violation, $500/second violation, and $1000/third and subsequent violations. If a vendor is cited, the city must notify the violator that they have the right to request an ability-to-pay determination and make instructions available for such a hearing. The city is mandated to accept a payment of 20% of the total amount for satisfaction of the fine(s) if the violator earns less than 125% of the federal poverty line or receives certain means-tested government benefits. The benefits described in Government Code section 68632(a) and (b) include SSI or SSP, CalWORKS, Tribal TANF, SNAP, etc. Alternatively, the local authority may allow the person to complete community service instead of paying the total administrative fine, may waive the fine, or may offer an alternative disposition which we are researching. The Safe Sidewalk Vending Act is designed to promote the opportunity for stationary and roaming sidewalk vending by establishing a comprehensive set of restrictions on local agencies regulating these microbusinesses. The City Council may establish a local program to restrict sidewalk vendors' operations and conduct them in limited ways. Enforcement – City Currently, City of Torrance Environmental Quality Officers roams the city educating illegal sidewalk vendors about their inability to vend, providing educational material on becoming a legal sidewalk vendor, and answering any questions. The city has also recently engaged outside Code Enforcement Officers (CEOs) to assist the city with illegal sidewalk vendors. The CEOs can write administrative citations in those cases where an illegal sidewalk vendor is unwilling to follow city ordinances, and the vendor can be positively identified. Additionally, the city has recently developed a Vendor Task Force. The Vendor Task Force consists of the Torrance Code Enforcement Unit, the Torrance Police Department, and the LA County Public Health Mobile Food Task Force. The Vendor Task Force conducts inspections of illegal food vendors but only operates in Torrance occasionally, as this is a county-led Health Department enforcement operation. In these operations, as allowed under State law, the LA County Public Health Mobile Food Task Force will remove all food and issue an inspection report that includes a hearing date/time for a compliance review of the illegal sidewalk vending. The most recent Vendor Task Force inspection occurred during the evening of December 17, 2022, when the task force contacted two fruit vendors and one taco vendor. The task force removed food from the taco vendor and one fruit vendor. The Vendor Task Force also attempted to contact two other taco vendors. However, the vendors left the area before the group arrived for the inspection. City staff maintains a list of all known illegal sidewalk vendors. Currently, three illegal taco vendors are operating in the evening hours in the city. Illegal taco vendors have been reported on Torrance Boulevard and Anza Avenue, Pacific Coast Highway and Anza Avenue, Sepulveda Boulevard, and Ocean Avenue. Additionally, staff was recently aware of a fourth illegal taco vendor along Maple Avenue close to Sepulveda Boulevard. In addition to the unlawful taco vendors, several fruit and drink vendors are located at various locations and times throughout the city. While the Joint Task Force consistently visits the three illegal taco vendors in coordination with the LA County Public Health Mobile Food Task Force, both agencies continue confiscating their food and equipment. However, most operations return to the exact locations within 48 hours. The fruit and drink vendors are a hit-and-miss, as they are mobile and are only sometimes located at the exact location. However, any food vendor observed during a Joint Task Force inspection is contacted by the team for enforcement action if they are operating illegally. Torrance Police Department is not responsible for enforcing health violations. They will only stand by to provide public safety as the LA County Health Department, and the Task Force conducts legal enforcement actions. If you wish to report an illegal street vendor, you may also reach out to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health: or phone at (888) 700-9995 to express your concerns over food safety and lack of health permits for a street vendor. The City and Council are continually examining all possible legal options to address illegal sidewalk vendors and we will keep the public updated on our progress. We are planning a public education session and a city council presentation. I hope this clarifies some concerns. BRIDGETT D. LEWIS Councilmember – Office of the City Council City of Torrance | 3031 Torrance Boulevard | Torrance CA 90503 | 310.781.7668 direct | 310.618.2801 main office | |

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