Holidays aren’t always cause for celebration in the City of Santa Clarita. Because of the heavy turnout of vendors who appear on streets before occasions such as Mother’s Day to hawk their wares, joyous events in the city are often anything but for established retailers here. “The local businesses claim legitimate business is being taken away,” said Officer Curtis Williams of the City’s Community Preservation Division. “They’re claiming we’ve got vendors coming in from parts of L.A. or L.A. County that don’t have an investment in the City of Santa Clarita.” Such retailers say that street vendors hurt Santa Clarita’s economy because the sales they generate are not given back to the community. Dan Blake, an economics professor at California State University, Northridge, and director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Resource Center at CSUN, called the tension between street vendors and store owners an age old conflict. “The conflict is [between] on the one hand, people that do this for a living and have established stores and this is part of their income, and people who show up on the holidays,on Mother’s Day or on Fourth of July,to sell flags or whatever the celebration is that don’t have an established store and support the community,” Blake said. “Somewhere in the middle is the consumer who probably likes the cheaper items from the street vendors yet respects the store owners.” Because Santa Clarita vendors typically specialize in selling floral products,in addition to selling fruit, candy, toys and stuffed animals,Williams believes that flower store owners are left most vulnerable by street vendors. “Peddlers are taking away their business firsthand,” Williams explained. Henrietta Norris, owner of Bloomie’s Florist, is a case in point. She was quoted in a recent City of Santa Clarita-issued press release discussing her frustration with street vendors. She did not return the Business Journal’s calls about the issue before press time. “I believe the City’s motto is something along the lines of ‘Shop Santa Clarita and Shop Local,'” she stated. “I personally believe in this motto, and I spend my money in the City, as we all reap the rewards of this practice. The City gains absolutely nothing from what I believe to be illegal vending that occurs.” The complaints of retailers have moved the City and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department to crack down on illegal street vendors known to gather on San Fernando Road and other high traffic parts of town. As part of the crackdown, during the days leading up to Valentine’s Day and on the occasion itself, the City deployed five code enforcement officers and three deputy sheriffs to cite vendors without valid solicitor permits, State resale licenses or legal permission to sell from private property. During past Valentine’s Days, vendors have developed tented temporary storefronts, complete with lighting, power generators and large signage, according to the City. These setups have resulted in hazardous parking situations when vendors and their clientele position their vehicles too close to driveways or curbs, Williams said. Blake said that traffic congestion can be particularly bothersome to members of the local workforce. “They’re trying to get to their jobs and their commute is hampered by street vendors,” he said. Litter can also become a problem in the wake of street vendors because people who consume, say, ice cream from a peddler may leave wrappers on the streets. In addition to San Fernando Road, street vendors, especially those selling ice cream, gather near schools. “A lot of their business is through children coming out of school between breaks,” Williams said. While there’s been a recent uproar about street vending in Santa Clarita, the problems that have surfaced now actually date back to 1994. That’s when the City first regulated the practice. That move has resulted in a spike in the amount of merchandise sold on the sides of roadways and sidewalks throughout the community over the years. Since there’s been no official economic report conducted about street vendors, Williams said that it’s difficult to measure the extent to which vendors affect the local economy. In response to the recent public outcry about street vending, however, the City is now reviewing its permitting process and ordinances regarding street vendors and door-to-door sales.
City is Cracking Down on Illegal Street Vendors