During a tense meeting Tuesday evening, licensed street vendors in San Francisco’s Mission District pushed back against a 90-day Mission Street vending ban slated to begin in November.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s legislative aide Santiago Lerma led the meeting, which was held in mostly Spanish, telling a group of about 85 people at the Latino Task Force health site that District 9 officials would be implementing the ban along Mission Street between Cesar Chavez and 14th Streets.
Ronen initially announced the decision to halt street vending along Mission Street in a newsletter last week, although Lerma said official enforcement details have yet to be finalized.
“The reason why we are doing this is because the situation has become very, very dangerous,” Lerma said.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed legislation in March 2022 that regulated vending for both merchandise and prepackaged food or drink. A street vendor permit costs $430 a year with a $100 renewal fee each subsequent year.
He said that in the year and a half since the city’s street vendor program was launched, San Francisco police have received over 6,000 calls for service involving illegal street vending and violence along Mission Street.
“There are a lot of problems where people can’t even get off the Muni buses,” he said.
Issues with stolen goods sold in the area are also prompting a response from officials, Lerma added.
“At this point, for the security of the community and to maintain order, we need to do something about this because the situation needs to change,” he said. “After 90 days are done, we plan to review how the situation has changed and then we will see how we can bring back vendors to the area.”
Idaria Escalante, a vendor who began selling merchandise in Mexico, told Lerma that she understood the city’s need to fix the issues with illegal vending but worried that the ban would hurt vendors’ ability to provide for their families.
“Ninety days is a long time,” she said. “The people that are here need money month to month because the landlord isn’t going to wait more than one month for the rent.”
Rodrigo Lopez questioned the decision, saying unlicensed vendors who sell stolen goods will remain after licensed vendors are told to leave.
“Why didn’t they give us enough time to prepare for this?” he asked. “We belong in the Mission. We are part of the Mission, but you all are removing us without giving us enough time.”
Lerma pushed back the idea that vendors will be moved to other neighborhoods and said that they could sell in parts of the Mission, just not in prohibited areas.
“People are dying,” Lerma said. “It’s a situation that’s very dangerous. I feel for you and the short time, but we can also help you to find another place to sell. We aren’t telling you that you need to leave the Mission. We are just saying on Mission Street because it has become dangerous.”
Other vendors who spoke during the meeting echoed the sentiment that the ban is coming at a time when vendors make the most money during the holiday season and that most of their clientele is Latino.
“My money is already invested in my product; how am I going to get it back?” vendor Idalia Lopes said. “They are going to move us out during the first week of November, but the busiest days to sell are November and December. Why don’t we fix all of this in January?”
At one point during the meeting, Lerma said he would return to Ronen to ask if the ban could be pushed back to December to give vendors more time—but he made no promises.
Guillermo Escalante, a vendor on Mission Street, said enforcement of the illegal vending is inconsistent, with many licensed sellers being hassled during business hours while scofflaw vendors sell stolen goods in the evenings.
He said he’s all for removing the lawbreakers, but wishes the city would have come to licensed sellers for input.
“All of those who are unlicensed are mocking the city, as well as us and the police,” he said. “You ask me how? When police come, they leave, and when police leave, they return. It’s a game of cat-and-mouse, and we are stuck in the middle.”
According to Lerma, another meeting will be held Monday night to further discuss the anticipated ban.
Joel Umanzor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org