Fullerton City Council voted unanimously at their September 15 meeting to approve an ordinance that allows and regulates sidewalk vendors in the City, to bring Fullerton into compliance with Senate Bill 946, the intent of which is to increase economic opportunities to low-income and immigrant communities, increase access to culturally significant food and merchandise, and contribute to safe and dynamic public spaces.
Prior to this, sidewalk vendors were not permitted in Fullerton unless it was for a specific city event.
Under the new ordinance, the annual fee for a sidewalk vending permit is $80 per cart. Vendors are also required to pay for a Live Scan fee (fingerprinted background check, currently $22), applicable business registration fees (up to $68), and obtain $1 million in liability insurance. A staff report states that insurance premiums for this “typically range from $299 to $2,500 per year.”
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra expressed concern that these fees and expenses, particularly the insurance requirement, would make the street vendor permits unaffordable to the very people the State law aims to assist.
“It seems that maybe this is an issue the State overlooked,” Zahra said. “It seems like the spirit of the law is to try to help vendors, especially lower income vendors, like an ice cream guy, but then suddenly all these costs are coming up that they can’t afford. So even if we are allowing this, and say, ‘Hey you guys can operate legally,’ they’re not going to conform to any of these requirements because they just can’t afford it.”
According to Public Works director Meg McWade and City Attorney Richard Jones, this liability insurance is to protect the City from lawsuits.
Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald defended the insurance requirement, stating, “We live in a litigious state, and it’s expensive to run any kind of business here…So either the taxpayers are going to pay if someone slips and falls, or the person whose fault it is will pay.”
Zahra also questioned the Livescan (fingerprint ID) requirement, which is not required of other business owners in the City.
“Because we’re permitting these people to operate in very close proximity to our schools and out on our public streets, it’s just a verification that we don’t have somebody that we don’t want on our streets,” McWade said.
One public commenter asked how the new regulations would be enforced, and McWade said they would be enforced by a combination of police and code enforcement.
Jane Reifer, another public commenter, suggested that the City contact the Small Business Administration (SBA) to see if there is a program or opportunity that could enable very low-income entrepreneurs to have access to insurance money to get started.
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