Permitted community vendors or a safety hazard?
A group of San Francisco street vendors who said they have permits to sell their goods rallied near the 24th Street Mission BART Station on Wednesday to protest a ban proposed by Supervisor Hillary Ronen that is set to begin next week.
Last month, Ronen proposed banning all vendors along Mission Street for 90 days, saying it would help city workers—who say they face threats of violence—clean the area.
"I recently learned that [Department of Public Works] workers who enforce the law have been assaulted and had their lives threatened by individuals selling stolen goods on the street," Ronen wrote in her newsletter this month. "I also found out that DPW workers are wearing bulletproof vests to work and that many workers filed grievances through their union so they no longer had to work in the Mission because they feared for their safety."
Ronen said designated areas for vendors are expected to open at 17th and Mission streets. However, vendors at the rally said there were not enough spots to fit everyone.
Many of the speakers, members of the newly formed Mission Street Vendors Association, also proposed delaying the 90-day ban until after the holidays, saying this is their busiest time of the year.
“It is deeply immoral and unconscionable to take away what for many folks is their only livelihood during the holiday season," said Kevin Ortiz, president of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club.
Ortiz also questioned why the vendors could not be relocated to some of the 74 empty vacancies in the area.
Chants of "Si se puede" broke out as speakers took turns airing out their frustrations Wednesday morning.
Sofia Lopez, a vendor who spoke at the rally, said the blame for rising crime in the neighborhood is wrongly being placed on vendors like her.
"None of us are thieves," Lopez said. "The problem is from people who are not from San Francisco. Here, we all know each other. Here in the Mission, I feel at home."
Lopez also said Ronen had promised to meet with the vendor's association but has not yet replied to their request for a meeting.
"Many of us work so hard, we don't have time to watch TV when we get home," Lopez added. "This took a lot of us by surprise."
“I don't see the support nor the help they are giving us. Instead, they are dividing us as vendors. For what? To finish with us," said Carlos Escalante, another vendor, who felt they would not be allowed back after the 90 days Ronen is calling for.
Sidewalk vending has been decriminalized in California since 2018 with the passage of Senate Bill 946. However, complaints often arise regarding crowding on the streets, alleged theft of some goods being sold and alleged safety hazards.
"Ronen says we are bringing crime and problems to the Mission, but that isn't true. We are workers, and we come here to work," vendor Luz Ledezma said. "We are not asking for anything irrational. We are not criminals."
Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to approve legislation that established a framework to regulate street vendors in the hopes of tackling the sale of stolen goods.