The Gilroy City Council moved forward with an ordinance Aug. 7 that will regulate sidewalk vending within the city.
Senate Bill 946, which went into effect in 2019, legalized sidewalk vending. Through the law, cities can require a permit or license and mandate other standards, but they cannot restrict vendors to a specific area unless it is necessary to protect the “public’s health, safety or welfare.”
Jon Biggs of Gilroy’s Community Development Department said, under the draft ordinance, vendors, defined as those who sell food or merchandise, would be required to obtain a sidewalk vending permit through the city after they have already received a health permit through the county and a city business license. They must also provide liability insurance and workers’ compensation, among other requirements.
Vendors must also not block sidewalks or entrances to businesses, and need to clean up after themselves, among the standards laid out in the ordinance.
City staff added a number of things to the ordinance based on direction from the council during previous meetings, Biggs said. Among those are separation requirements for vendors, such as at least 400 feet from schools and 600 feet from “entertainment establishments,” and requiring the vendors to shut down at the same time brick-and-mortar businesses close if they are located on the same street in mixed-use areas.
Mayor Marie Blankley said the ordinance needed to go further and ban the use of cooking devices that generate smoke as well as hot oil that could splash onto passersby.
“If the public can’t comfortably walk in our downtown without going through smoke, or if they have to worry about getting splashed with hot grease and getting burned, those are absolutely health and safety things,” she said.
Biggs said language could be added to the ordinance that prohibits cooking methods such as deep fat frying and wood firing, as those could be considered a burn or slipping hazard, which the council supported.
Councilmember Carol Marques said she was concerned that the ordinance did not provide a designated area that vendors could gather at, such as a parking lot, adding that restaurant owners do not want them setting up shop in front of their establishments. Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz said that although state law prohibits cities from telling vendors where to go if it doesn’t affect health and safety, perhaps the city could provide such a spot as an option, not a requirement.
Biggs said that could be an option, much like other cities provide areas for food trucks. But he also said the separation requirements outlined in the ordinance would address some of those concerns from restaurants.
“There’s only going to be a few spots in downtown and across the city where vendors will be able to comply with all of these separation requirements,” he said.
Biggs added that the ordinance gives code enforcement and police officers the ability to confiscate vendors’ equipment if they do not comply with the rules.
“Those are going to be actions of last resort,” he said. “We always try to encourage compliance rather than take enforcement action.”
The ordinance will be brought back to the council on Aug. 21 for final approval with the updates. It will become effective 30 days after that.
The council is expected to consider fees for sidewalk vending permits in September.