A once familiar sight for many Santa Cruz residents will continue to be absent from West Cliff Drive’s sidewalks. On Aug. 14th, the city manager’s office issued an executive order prohibiting street vendors from operating there due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The prohibition was set to expire on Oct. 1, but it was extended indefinitely until the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency expires. The order blocks street vendors from working on Beach Street, the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, West Cliff Drive, Main Beach, and Cowell Beach.
According to the city manager’s office, vendors were ignoring the COVID-19 safety precautions for street vendors established in a June executive order. They also said in an interview that overcrowding and inadequate social distancing were significant issues at these locations. Since the order was implemented, the city has seen improvements in overcrowding at the beach areas, says Ralph Dimarucut, the principal management analyst in the city manager’s office.
The executive order was extended to “prevent the further spread of COVID-19,” Dimarucut said in an email.
California Senate Bill 946, signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, sets limits on how local authorities can regulate sidewalk vendors. It states the only punishment a vendor can receive for a violation is an administrative fine. However, local authorities can restrict vendors from operating in certain areas if there is an “objective” health risk.
Working with Community Bridges, a nonprofit resource center, the city held discussions with street vendors about the order’s ramifications. Community Bridges reached out to the impacted street vendors and set up a Zoom meeting with the city manager’s office.
“We really wanted to be able to support vendors during this time, particularly […] with the financial hardship of COVID-19.” said Santa Cruz Communications Manager Elizabeth Smith.
While street vendors are prevented from operating at these locations, vendors can still work at those not named in the executive order.