Subscribe Donate
Home | Newsroom | Miscellaneous | Anaheim City Council opt to Impound Sidewalk Vendor Equipment the Day Before Valentine’s Day

Anaheim City Council opt to Impound Sidewalk Vendor Equipment the Day Before Valentine’s Day

Just before Valentine’s Day, I attended a City of Anaheim City Council meeting where the city voted to shower sidewalk vendors with heartbreak instead of appreciation and inclusivity.

The city council unanimously amended an existing sidewalk ordinance to include impounding of sidewalk vendor equipment and codifying non-vending zones.

The street vending issue has often pitted some brick-and-mortar business owners against vendors in Anaheim. Three or four business owners argued in support of these harsher measures for sidewalk vendors. They arrived that evening in full support of the proposed amendments to the sidewalk vendor ordinance. They operate along the busiest street corridor that leads to the biggest amusement parks and resorts in Anaheim.

It was a typical verbal back and forth, with vendors accused of unsightliness and even criminality, and vendors asserting that far from creating problems, they contribute to the city’s local economy.

I listened while a local hotel manager, blamed sidewalk vendors for deterring, “potential buyers from legitimate businesses, and.”  Another hotel manager argued that sidewalk vendors pose a threat to public safety. She cited a recent shooting directed at a street vendor. Yes! She blamed the victim for the violence brought on them stating, “they bring cash only business which makes them susceptible to more crime.” She continued to say that sidewalk vendors bring in an “unsavory crowd.”

When the item later came up, the city council asked for a staff report and the Deputy City manager noted that street vendors have not accessed Anaheim’s permit process. Since 2018 only about five flower vendors and no food vendors have obtained permits.

The report, however, left me wondering about the city’s approach to sidewalk vending. It seemed to focus on enforcement and stereotypes, while not addressing the glaring gaps in outreach and lack of intense educational efforts.

The evening’s absurdity peaked when the report cataloged taco stands as “large scale operations” as the most problematic vendors, even linking taqueros to human trafficking rings. Yet when asked by council members for confirmation of suspected trafficking, none was supplied by city staff.

There was a lot of bureaucratic conflation of types of vendors. Health and Safety buzzwords were dropped throughout the presentation. Yet, no distinction was made between merchandise vendors and food vendors. All vendors in no vending zones will face confiscation of property as an enforcement mechanism. They will have the ability to confiscate sidewalk vendor equipment without the presence of County of Orange Health Inspectors alongside them.

Their focus will remain on large scale sidewalk food vendors and event and resort area vendors. Anaheim code enforcement patrols 6 nights a week with two of those nights alongside County Health Inspectors.

These enforcement efforts have led to, “141 citations in 2022 to 423 citations in 2023; in addition, in partnership with Orange County Health Inspectors staff confiscated the food and/or equipment of 112 vendors in 2022 and 174 vendors in 2023,” according to the Deputy City Manager.

The overzealousness to enforce and confiscate property is worrisome, cities should place their efforts in educational and informational outreach. They should understand that as folks acclimate to County of Orange Health requirements, education serves as a better measure towards compliance.

How many sessions for sidewalk vendors were held by the city? The staff report gave no quantitative data of how much resources were put into informing sidewalk vendors. These are important questions to ask when looking at the dismal number of permits.

Are cities putting more effort into enforcement measures or bridging gaps to truly make these permits accessible to these sidewalk micro entrepreneurs?

Cities wouldn’t have to invest so intensely in enforcement if you invested in a more informative/educational approach.

Anaheim, impounding equipment will economically devastate vendors, it will not improve compliance. Cities should work with their local health department to collaboratively find ways to increase permit numbers through education and outreach.