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City of San Diego begins enforcement of updated street vending ordinance

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Posted at 6:36 PM, Mar 29, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Friday, the city of San Diego began enforcement of an updated sidewalk vending ordinance.

The revised ordinance "provides clarity on which vending activities are safeguarded under the First Amendment as free speech, and impounding measures for rogue vendors that fail to comply with the health and safety regulations," according to a statement from Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell's office.

"I am a busker, creator, a musician," William Dorsett said.

Dorsett considers himself an artist with many talents. He usually displays his artwork in hotspots, such as Balboa Park.

"I create my own stencils and design characters," Dorsett said.

The ordinance requires vendors and pushcart operators to have permits.

Enforcing the rule had previously been challenging, with some people claiming that their work was considered free speech and, therefore, protected under the First Amendment.

"For example, last year, I ran into someone who was selling rocks and thought that was free speech," Campbell said.

Campbell revamped the law and worked with city attorneys to determine what's considered "pure speech."

Protected vending includes art sales, street performers, and speaking about a religious or political topic.

"Somethings I like... the fact that they made it a little more clear and wrote who and what is protected," Dorsett said.

Not included under "pure speech" are food sales, clothing, and sales of handcrafted jewelry and pottery, which is what Sara Duvall does.

Duvall said her work should also be protected.

"What they need to focus on is the people who are here actually just vending a million little trinkets that they did not make," Duvall said.

While the ordinance protects Dorsett's work, it restricts where vendors can operate. He said it's impacting his ability to make a living.

"You gotta go and seek out where you do best, and you can't do that when you're restricted to spaces, or you can't set up where you know that you're going to have a captive audience," Dorsett said.

Food vendors are also required to obtain a San Diego County Health Permit and Food Handler Card.

If vendors violate the rule, they could face fines, and their equipment could be impounded.