Maricela Valenzuela covered her eyes to hide the tears Sunday morning after police seized her shopping cart filled with the blankets, jackets and pants that she hoped to sell in the Walnut Street neighborhood.
Valenzuela said that she didn’t know it was a crime to sell her wares in Santa Ana and that she had never heard of the business license or vendor’s permit that the officers demanded.
“What am I going to tell my boss?” Valenzuela said in Spanish. “He’s going to be angry with me.”
The 20-year-old woman received one of the first citations issued Sunday as police and city inspectors cracked down on pushcart vendors who have not complied with a month-old law requiring that they obtain a business license and a vendor’s permit.
City officials estimate that there are more than 500 illegal street peddlers and pushcart vendors in Santa Ana. Under an ordinance adopted by the City Council last July, the city is prepared to license 200 vendors--including 22 allowed to do business in the civic center area--at a cost to the operator of up to $800 for the proper documentation.
“Santa Ana has to be the vendor capital” of Orange County, Sheri Pignone, planning and building agent, said.
Sunday’s daylong sweep involving seven city inspectors teamed with five police officers resulted in at least 20 citations or confiscated carts, city inspectors said. Citations can cost between $50 and $150.
Police said they distributed flyers to vendors throughout the city, alerting them to the rules in the new ordinance. But like Valenzuela, many of those cited Sunday claimed that they had not heard of the changes.
Officer Leo Carillo confiscated Valenzuela’s wares while Pignone wrote the woman a citation to appear in Municipal Court next month.
Pignone said many vendors in Santa Ana come from Los Angeles or surrounding cities in Orange County that have tighter restrictions on pushcarts. Anaheim, for example, does not allow any pushcart vendors, Pignone said.
Carillo said it is difficult to crack down on the city’s street vendors. “Many don’t carry identification because they don’t intend to show (up) for the notice to appear” in court.
So confiscating a cart or goods sends a stronger message, officials said.
“We feel that confiscating (property) shows we are serious . . . we mean business,” said planning and building agent Teresa Jones, who coordinated the sweep.
Police and city officials said the effort to license the street vendors who sell food was also intended to give authorities more control over food preparation. Pignone said food is sometimes prepared in homes that do not meet health standards.
Rodrigo Flores, 20, was one of those cited Sunday. He said he began selling blankets from a shopping cart for $25 a day about a month ago to earn tuition for Rancho Santiago College.
“I never had a ticket before,” said Flores, who was selling in a neighborhood along Pine Street. “Now I got to go to court because of him,” he said of his boss. “I guess it’s my fault too because I didn’t know it was illegal,” he mumbled as he held the citation.
The ordinance is the result of a compromise between city officials and vendors that was worked out last July. Neighborhood activists pressured city officials to ban pushcarts completely. The critics complained about the appearance of some carts as well as the noise and trash left behind by some operators.
But vendors, many of whom depend on their sales to earn a living, opposed a ban.
The new city ordinance requires that vendors wear uniforms, work between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and refrain from clanging loud bells. The licensing process, which includes getting a vendor’s permit and a business license from the city, costs about $800 for one pushcart and about $600 for each additional cart.
Vendors also must carry a trash container and are not allowed to sell goods withing 200 feet of a church or school.