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SF's Mission Street Vending Ban Begins

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A man holds a neon orange protest sign in Spanish with several people around him.
Members of the recently formed Mission Vendor Association gather at the 24th Street BART plaza for a press conference in San Francisco on Nov. 22, 2023, condemning an upcoming rule banning vending on Mission Street. The ban would extend from Cesar Chavez Street to 14th Street on Mission Street, with some exceptions, and is set to begin on Nov. 27. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

A 90-day ban on street vending on a section of San Francisco’s Mission Street goes into effect today. The ban extends along a large stretch of the corridor, anywhere within 300 feet of Mission Street, from 14th Street to Cesar Chavez Street.

The city is moving ahead with the plan, spearheaded by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, despite calls by some vendors to delay the ban. Vendors still selling goods on the street will be asked to move or risk having their items confiscated.

On Wednesday, dozens of members of the recently formed Mission Street Vendors Association, a group of more than a hundred street vendors who sell on Mission Street, took to the 24th Street BART Plaza to call on the city to hold off on the ban until the new year.

Allies of the vendors said the ban couldn’t come at a worse time.

“It is deeply immoral and unconscionable to take away what for many folks is their only livelihood before the holidays,” said Kevin Ortiz, co-president of the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club.

In a community newsletter sent last month, Ronen said uncontrolled vending has created “measurable hazards,” and that she pulled together a group of city leaders to address the problem after learning that some people selling stolen goods on the street had threatened and assaulted Department of Public Works inspectors.

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The resulting Public Works Order banning all vending on the street is set to last for 90 days, although it may be extended if there are “objective health, safety, and welfare concerns.” The order directly links people who sell stolen goods with a rise in crime in the neighborhood.

“Illegal Vending and concerns that illegal Vending has caused the street conditions of the Mission Street Corridor to be worse than ever are common topics of discussion at community meetings, and the community members who attend these meetings routinely call for and support greater police action to make the Mission Street Corridor safer and more accessible for pedestrians;” the order states.

Deldelp Medina, the other co-president of the Latinx Democratic Club, challenged the idea that vendors cause crime.

“Safety does not equal the lack of vendors. Having a safety plan is what gains safety. Having people be economically viable is what creates safety,” Medina said.

A woman speaks into news microphones with a group of people behind.
Sofia Lopez, a permitted vendor, speaks alongside members of the recently formed Mission Vendor Association gather at the 24th Street BART plaza during a press conference in San Francisco on Nov. 22, 2023, condemning an upcoming rule banning vending on Mission Street. The ban would extend from Cesar Chavez Street to 14th Street on Mission Street, with some exceptions, and is set to begin on Nov. 27. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Vendors also said the ban was an attempt to provide a blanket solution to a problem they have nothing to do with. With the passage of Senate Bill 946 in 2018, sidewalk vending was decriminalized in the state.

“[Ronen] wants to take away the vendors in the Mission because she says vendors sell stolen items. We are not part of the problem,” said Sofia Lopez, who has sold Central American crafts in the Mission for the last eight years.

Lopez held a sheaf of papers aloft, showing the various permits she has acquired since 2015 to comply with city vending laws. In March 2022, the city expanded laws regulating vendors, requiring all vendors in the city to carry a permit. Permits for Mission Street recently expired and are not currently being renewed.

“There are many people here today for the holidays,” Lopez said. “If we aren’t here, they are going to miss the products we sell. Our products aren’t sold in nearby stores. Our products [are] specially obtained from places like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.”

Ronen has tried to address a perceived rise in crime due to vendors selling apparently stolen goods before. In July of last year, BART erected fences around the 24th Street BART Plaza at Ronen’s request in an attempt to push vendors onto the sidewalk, where they could be cited and forced to move by Public Works employees.

At that time, Ronen said the fences were in part to protect longtime legal vendors who had reported being assaulted.

“People would come and rip their tablecloth off the table and have all of their wares flying away,” she told KQED last year.

A man holds a neon green protest sign with several people around him on a city street.
Members of the recently formed Mission Vendor Association gather at the 24th Street BART plaza for a press conference in San Francisco on Nov. 22, 2023, condemning an upcoming rule banning vending on Mission Street. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

But members of the Mission Street Vendors Association are now expressing frustration that they have been left out of the decision-making process.

“We want more transparency,” vendor Rodrigo Lopez said. “We want Supervisor Ronen to make us participants in the decisions she makes together with the City, DPW, and ourselves. The Mission has begun to change, but it has changed for many other reasons, not us.”

Ronen said she is working to open spaces off public sidewalks where the vendors can continue to sell their wares. Vendors say a storefront on Mission Street between 17th and 18th streets and a part of a parking lot on 24th and Capp streets have been identified as places that could likely house the vendors while the ban is in place. However, they added that the spaces were unlikely to provide room for all 116 members, which the Mission Street Vendors Association claims.

“It won’t work for my kind of products. The space is too small, so it isn’t feasible for me,” said Cesar Oyagata, who says he has sold indigenous crafts in the neighborhood for over 25 years.

A woman speaks into microphones with a group of people behind.
Luz Ledesma speaks alongside members of the recently formed Mission Vendor Association at the 24th Street BART plaza during a press conference in San Francisco on Nov. 22, 2023, condemning an upcoming rule banning vending on Mission Street. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Luz Ledesma, who has sold jewelry on the street for more than 10 years with her husband, said she felt blindsided by the ban.

“What are we going to do now? We’re worried.”

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