SF Declares UN Plaza “Vendor-Free” in Illegal Street Vendor Crackdown
The Board of Supervisors today passed legislation introduced by Mayor London N. Breed establishing a regulatory framework for street vending in San Francisco. The legislation is part of Mayor Breed’s efforts to disincentivize the resale of stolen goods and support legitimate street vending as a means of economic opportunity. Supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Hillary Ronen co-sponsored this legislation.
In consultation with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), San Francisco Public Works (DPW) will establish permitting guidelines for current and future street vendors operating in San Francisco. Policies will specify a time, location, and other parameters by which street vending participants must follow in order to operate. Failure to comply will result in administrative fines and the possible confiscation of goods. However, cited violations will not result in criminal charges.
DPW will work with community-based outreach teams to inspect and conduct street vending enforcement, requiring proof of ownership of goods for sale or an authorization to sell the goods to be presented at the time of inspection. This legislation does not apply to the vending of prepared foods or street artists selling their work, as a regulatory framework already exists for these vendors. Under the adopted legislation, UN Plaza will be deemed a vendor-free area except on Wednesdays and Sundays when the Heart of the City Farmers Market occurs.
“Illegal street vending has posed a significant challenge to our city and our small businesses for quite some time now, and it has only gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Mayor Breed. “This legislation is necessary if we want to seriously address not only the re-selling of illegal goods on our streets but the activity by which they are acquired in the first place. I want to thank the Board of Supervisors for supporting this legislation and working with me to address one of San Francisco’s biggest challenges.”
Currently, there is no citywide regulatory framework governing street vending in San Francisco. As a result, this has led to a saturation of street vending activity in various locations, impeding the ability of pedestrians, specifically people with disabilities, to use public spaces safely. Illegal street vending has also presented significant challenges for small businesses, including the increased inability to successfully serve customers coming in and out of the store due to a lack of physical space and illegal competition from the stolen goods being undersold.
Additionally, this legislation addresses the illegal resale of stolen goods from local pharmacies, grocery stores, retailers, small businesses, residential garages/homes, and automobiles that are being re-sold through unregulated activity. The acquisition of these goods is often done so through physical force, negatively impacting the public safety, health, and welfare of communities.
“Commercial retail theft is a challenge San Francisco will meet head-on. Over the last year, the stakeholders we’ve worked with have identified a clear problem – street vending of items stolen from local stores. This legislation will ensure street vendors are no longer selling illicit goods and protect those who are following the law,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí.
“The streets of the Mission are in chaos and we cannot continue the status quo,” said Supervisor Ronen. “The sidewalks are impassable, there is trash and debris everywhere, and street vendors are often selling stolen goods at half the price of the brick and mortar stores. Immigrant-owned small businesses that barely survived the pandemic have called me pleading for help. We must disrupt the status quo and this legislation strikes the right balance by restoring order on the streets while simultaneously allowing opportunities for street vendors to sell products, with a permit, in a more orderly way.”
“In the past two years, conditions on the UN Plaza have greatly deteriorated. Heart of the City Farmers’ Market has suffered immensely during this time, losing many customers and vendors due to this unsafe environment. In the last month, conditions have improved with the addition of the Linkage Center and the return of Urban Alchemy to the plaza. The approval of the street vending legislation could be the next step to further improve conditions at our market and facilitate a return to pre-pandemic operations. Heart of the City Farmers’ Market whole-heartedly supports this legislation,” said Steve Pulliam, Market Manager, Heart of the City Farmers’ Market.