Skip to main content

San Francisco lawmaker defends ban on illegal vendors

Supervisor Hillary Ronen speaks during a press conference on the steps of City Hall in San Francisco on Wed., Oct. 18, 2023.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen speaks during a press conference on the steps of City Hall. | Source: Katie Rodriguez for The Standard

A San Francisco lawmaker faced criticism over an impending prohibition on street vending in the city’s Mission neighborhood and revealed more information about opportunities for limited off-street vending once the ban takes place next week.

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission, made extended remarks on the street vending issues in English and Spanish during roll call at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Her comments came in response to criticism from vendors and community groups, as well as testimony at a Nov. 7 Board of Supervisors meeting from Department of Public Works street inspectors about the dangers they faced enforcing regulations.

RELATED: San Francisco Street Inspectors Beg City for Help To Deal With Armed Stolen-Goods Dealers 

Ronen described how recent events had changed street vending in the Mission District for the worse, creating an unsafe environment for honest vendors, city employees and nearby businesses.  

“We are balancing a lot of different interests,” she told board colleagues. “[Street vendors] have been a wonderful part of the culture of the Mission District. It’s been something that we’ve loved and has never caused a problem until recently.”

The pandemic changed the dynamic, she went on to say.

A person is sifting through various items including Advil, coffee, wipes, and laundry detergent along Mission Street in San Francisco, with people walking by in the background.
A longtime vendor named Ofelia Torres tends to her wares on Mission Street. | Source: Justin Katigbak for The Standard

“After the pandemic and the legalization of street vending by [state law], there came a huge extortion problem and fencing of stolen goods … [and] this new phenomenon brought with it violence—extreme violence,” she added. “Our own city workers are scared for their lives to the point that they’re wearing bulletproof vests to work. … Many of the small businesses in the Mission barely survived the pandemic, and now face people selling the same products at half the price because they’re stolen goods.”

Ronen originally announced a ban on street vending on Mission Street beginning in November but received significant pushback from vendors. 

The ban has since been postponed until Nov. 28, according to a report in Mission Local. Ronen’s staff attributed the delay to issues around preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which is drawing thousands of world leaders, business executives and tourists to the city this week 

A group of people under a white canopy.
Mission District vendors gather at a meeting to discuss a 90-day ban proposed to begin in November. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

Ronen also announced plans for limited permitted spaces at the 16th Street BART Plaza as well as the 24th Street parking lot, a former vaccination site, for vendors “trying to make a legitimate living for their family.” 

“I think this is the most responsible way to protect all parties involved,” she concluded. 

But some vendors who showed up at the meeting Tuesday were not satisfied. 

“Three weeks ago, we hear in the news about the street vendor ban on Mission Street,” one vendor testified Tuesday. “We don’t hear nothing from the city, from the [Department of Public Works] or from nobody else. We hear it from the news. There is no communication between the city and us. There was supposed to be a 90 days ban; it sounds like it’s going to be permanent. We want more transparency.”

Another vendor testifying through a translator said the ban imposes financial hardship on honest sellers. 

“We are still paying for our permits, and we have a lot of merchandise for the holidays that we’re going to be stuck with now without being able to pay for that,” the vendor said. “If there is going to be a 90-day ban, there’s going to be a financial uncertainty. Will the city do anything to help us?”