Illegal street vending program sparks concern in San Bernardino County

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Locals are speaking out against San Bernardino County leaders over efforts they say are negatively targeting street food vendors.

On Tuesday, a rally was held outside Covington Chambers as the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted on the $9.8 billion budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The budget proposal was passed unanimously but, within the text, are provisions that specifically focus on street food vendors that have sparked concern.

“Within that budget, we found that they want to allocate over $480,000 to the creation of an illegal street vending program,” said Bryan Sanchez with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, a nonprofit focusing on policy advocacy and issues affecting the immigrant community in the Inland Empire.

An excerpt within the budget proposal mentions money will be used toward additional “positions, vehicles and other ancillary costs necessary for the provision of Illegal Street Vending Enforcement.”

Opponents believe the move could open up possibilities to harm residents who depend on street vending to earn a living and survive.

A rally opposing the illegal street vending program was held outside Covington Chambers as the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted on the yearly budget on June, 11, 2024. (KTLA)An excerpt from San Bernardino County’s 2024-25 budget proposal allocating $484,657 toward an “illegal street vending program.” (San Bernardino County)Bryan Sanchez, a lead organizer from the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, held a rally opposing the illegal street vending program in San Bernardino County on June 11, 2024. (KTLA)Opponents and ralliers spoke during public comment at a San Bernardino County board hearing over an illegal street vending program on June 11, 2024. (KTLA)Opponents and ralliers spoke during public comment at a San Bernardino County board hearing over an illegal street vending program on June 11, 2024. (KTLA)A rally opposing the illegal street vending program was held outside Covington Chambers as the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted on the yearly budget on June, 11, 2024. (KTLA)A rally opposing the illegal street vending program was held outside Covington Chambers as the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted on the yearly budget on June, 11, 2024. (KTLA)

“Although it says that it’ll only be for the creation of positions of health inspectors within those job descriptions, it’ll give them the responsibility of recommending citations on vendors,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez believes the approval may lead to county enforcement becoming more aggressive toward vendors, citing incidents in the past involving costly fines and the seizure of food and equipment from targeted vendors.

County officials, however, said the street vending program is nothing new and would only add positions to expand existing enforcement operations on the weekends. 

Officials also noted that vendors must obtain permits for public health and safety protections, with a county spokesperson saying, “The intention is to prioritize education and outreach to vendors in obtaining legal permits and operating in accordance with state and county law. The team will work to educate prior to issuing citations.” 

Opponents, however, are still concerned about the provision they believe will negatively affect many street food vendors trying to earn a living.

One rally attendee said she used to be a street food vendor before eventually earning enough to become a business owner. She believes the funds should be used toward helping illegal street vendors obtain permits instead.

“If you want people to do things right, you have to educate them, you have to tell them how to do it, not just, ‘Hey, you’re doing something wrong,’ and you don’t tell them what they’re doing wrong or how to do it right,” the woman said.

Another issue opponents cite is that the permit process is often expensive and difficult, while most of the literature is written only in English. Permits range from $245 or higher per year.

Opponents rallied outside the county building on Tuesday before speaking during a public hearing at the board meeting, saying added enforcement would be the wrong approach with street vendors.

“It’s much better instead to use that money to have staff that are already there, be better trained in interacting with street vendors and reaching out to them and creating workshops,” Sanchez said.

County spokesperson, David Wert, said citations are sometimes issued to street vendors in unincorporated county areas for “land-use violations or setting up shop in places where business activity is not allowed,” but are “not connected to the activity of serving food.”

Officials told the San Bernardino Sun that enforcement would only be a “last-resort option for vendors who repeatedly resist seeking permits, which are necessary for public health and safety.”

Wert added that, “Public Health has never issued citations and does not have the authority to do so now. The county will soon create an ordinance that will create that authority. Public Health’s efforts to date have been limited to education and assistance.”

A county spokesperson confirmed to KTLA that officials are also working to create a permit application that will be available in Spanish.

Documents on San Bernardino County’s 2024-25 budget can be found here. Information on street vending permits can be found here.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.