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Council to Consider Banning Risky Vendor Activities

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

August 18, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday will consider cracking down on illegal vendors on the Pier who are lighting cooking fires, spilling grease into storm drains and overflowing trash bins with waste.

Code enforcers and Fire Department personnel have been focused on code compliance and safety, but the vendors' activities since COVID restrictions were lifted are "posing risks to public safety and the environment," City officials said.

To tackle the out-of-control problem, the Council will take up three prohibitions proposed by staff.

The first would bar the "unregulated use of combustible fuels on and around the pier," which is "a wooden structure with limited entrances and exits.

"With increased crowds on the Pier, the City has seen increased use of combustible fuels, primarily butane, by vendors illegally selling food on the Pier," staff wrote.

The Pier's only sprinkler system -- which is underneath the structure -- "is not designed to, and will not, quickly extinguish any fire that might occur and potentially spread."

The proposed addition to the Municipal Code "would prohibit any person from using any combustible fuel on the Pier or within 25 feet of the Pier, for any purpose involving the fuel’s combustion without first obtaining a permit."

The second measure would prohibit the "dumping of commercial trash in public receptacles."

"City staff has observed and received reports of vendors depositing large volumes of waste generated from their vending activities into these receptacles, causing significant overflow," the report said.

"The City has attempted to address this through scheduling increased numbers of collections, and the placement of additional larger bins in high volume locations," staff wrote.

"Both cost money. And, after placing the larger bins, City staff has observed trucks of unknown origin driving to the bins to dump what appears to be significant volumes of waste generated by commercial or business activities, resulting again in significant overflow."

The proposed addition to the Municipal Code would make it unlawful for any "owner, manager, operator, or employee of a business to deposit litter from that business in a public receptacle without first obtaining a permit from the Department of Public Works.”

The third new section of the code would prohibit the "dumping of liquid waste in public areas and storm drains."

"City staff has observed and received reports of individuals discarding liquid waste into street gutters and storm drains, onto parking lots, onto and in the vicinity of sidewalks and bike paths, and through the Pier decking onto the beach and water below," according to the report.

Under the new code sections, violations "may be handled as infractions, misdemeanors, or through issuance of administrative citations," staff said.

The problems arose after the City Council in April 2019 updated its 30-year-old vending program to comply with the 2018 Safe Sidewalk Vending Act signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown.

The law decriminalizes street vending in public spaces to boost economic opportunities for immigrant and low-income communities ("Santa Monica City Council Paves Way for New Sidewalk Vending Program," April 11, 2019).

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