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Huntington Beach to allow street vendors, but with strict limits

Huntington Beach to allow street vendors, but with strict limits
A food vendor prepares hot dogs on a sidewalk in Los Angeles. The Huntington Beach City Council on Tuesday created a temporary permit process to allow sidewalk vendors to sell food and other goods, with strict restrictions. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

Huntington Beach lifted its prohibition on street vendors Tuesday night as the City Council adopted a temporary permitting process, albeit with heavy restrictions, to comply with a new state law.

Senate Bill 946 legalized street vending statewide Jan. 1. The law strips criminal penalties associated with vending and gives the state overriding control of the typically independent enterprises. The law also requires local governments to adopt regulations that conform to the state framework.

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On a unanimous vote, the City Council adopted an emergency ordinance that immediately creates a permit program for 120 days while city staff brainstorms recommendations for a permanent ordinance.

Under the emergency ordinance, street vendors are required to apply annually for a permit and a business license, which must be displayed at all times. Permits will be non-transferable.

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Some vendors also need a state food-vending license.

The ordinance restricts vendors from doing business in residential zones, at the beach and in areas such as Pier Plaza, downtown, parks, City Hall and along Pacific Coast Highway inside city limits. It’s unclear specifically where vendors would be able to do business in compliance with the restrictions.

Offenders face $100 fines for a first violation of the ordinance and $200 for the second within the same year. Fines increase to $500 for each additional violation within a year of the first.

The temporary permit program is modeled after Laguna Beach and Newport Beach, Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates told the council Tuesday night. Minimal amendments for the permanent ordinance are expected to be presented to the council, he said.

Local TV programming

In other business, the council will give six months’ written notice of its intent to pull the plug with a cable company so the city can begin creating its own local television programming.

The move comes after city officials in December outlined a $425,000 business plan for the first year of “Surf City 3.”

The council voted 4-3 Tuesday to give notice to the Public Cable Television Authority, which provides local programming for Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Stanton and Westminster.

Councilwoman Lyn Semeta and members Mike Posey and Jill Hardy dissented. Semeta requested that the council postpone the matter until its next meeting.

She said she wanted to “honor a commitment” to Fountain Valley Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers, who like Semeta is on the PCTA board, by holding off on the six-month notice because the PCTA was leaning toward buying a television truck and software with a price tag of about $325,000.

“I cautioned the board, asking we continue that item or not make that purchase … because Huntington Beach would be withdrawing,” Semeta said.

Surf City funds 67% — $755,615 — of the PCTA’s 2018-19 budget. The three other cities collectively contribute 33%, or $356,257.

Huntington Councilman Patrick Brenden said the notice is a formality required to give an intent to withdraw.

“It’s six months time to further consider the matter,” Brenden said.

Commission to review charter

The council will begin preparing a 15-member commission to examine the city charter, which typically is done every 10 years.

Semeta, Hardy and Mayor Erik Peterson dissented in the council’s 4-3 vote.

Posey, who proposed the review, contended it is a matter of “tightening up and preserving” Huntington’s authority as a charter city because it is “under assault” by Sacramento through actions such as the street vending law.

Opponents argued the charter doesn’t appear to have any glaring issues. Gates added that the charter is “as broad as it can be” to maintain its power.

“Too much detail can be harmful to our experts,” Hardy said. “I’m just worried about trying to fix something that isn’t broken.”

Brenden, who served on the charter review commission in 2009, said issues may arise during the discussions that the council couldn’t anticipate.

The 2009 review, the most recent, cost about $25,000, according to City Manager Fred Wilson.

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