Supervisor Hillary Ronen made the surprise announcement that the city will ban all vending on Mission Street (or try to, at least), as threats and attacks on city workers have apparently been escalating.
The latest strategy to manage the illegal vending scene on Mission Street will strike some as the most logical move yet, but will certainly infuriate the vendors. The city has tried to tame the vending situation near BART stations on Mission Street with a permit system, the short-lived fences all over the BART station plaza, the street barricades that have been up for months, and even briefly erecting a watch tower. Throughout all this, the vending has persisted.
Now, the Chronicle reports on a surprise announcement for the district’s supervisor Hillary Ronen, who declared in a newsletter that vending on Mission Street will be banned entirely, starting in November. She cites safety concerns among Department of Public Works (DPW) staff enforcing the current permit policy.
“I recently learned that DPW workers who enforce the law have been assaulted and had their lives threatened by individuals selling stolen goods on the street,” Ronen’s newsletter announcement says. “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.”
“Allowing vending on Mission Street and around BART Stations are creating measurable hazards in the neighborhood,” she adds. “Therefore, starting in November, the City will ban street vending on Mission Street.”
While the announcement came from Ronen’s office, apparently Mayor Breed and City Attorney David Chiu were also involved in the decision. According to the Chronicle, a Breed spokesperson said DPW would issue the orders for vendors to vacate. But these are the same workers reportedly being threatened and harassed now.
Ronen’s legislative aide Santiago Lerma tells KGO that this harassment has gotten “to the point where our public works inspectors are now wearing bulletproof vests while they're walking the street — they are escorted by police but that is the danger that is out there for city workers.”
Lerma also told the Chronicle that they’ve seen fights break out among vendors waging turf wars over who gets to sell where. Given last week’s $18,000 stolen-merchandise bust of Mission Street vendors, it seems some of these vendors may be running more sophisticated and lucrative operations than we realized, and turning to violence to protect their turf.
SFPD Chief Bill Scott tells KGO that DPW workers "have been subject to attacks, assaults, verbal and physical assaults, so it really makes it difficult for them to do their job."
Both permitted and unpermitted vendors will be banned from Mission Street under the new policy. But Mission Local reports there will be alternative arrangements for permitted vendors, likely space inside currently vacant storefronts. That site notes that one vacant storefront at 17th and Mission Streets is “already being prepared for vendors,” and that other storefront locations are being scouted as well.
Obviously, the fact that the city has let the vending go on so long is going to make enforcement of this ban a lot more difficult. So it’s an open question whether DPW and the police will actually be able to remove the vendors from Mission Street. But it’s definitely the most aggressive response proposed yet in this ongoing struggle with vendors — but it remains to be seen if it will work any better in practice than previous "bans."
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist