Richmond Adopts Budget, Funds Mobile Vendor Plaza Program

Richmond City Council moved forward Tuesday with an ordinance that would regulate and set locations for street vendors, a day after adopting the next city budget. (Screenshot captured by Samantha Kennedy / The CC Pulse)

By Samantha Kennedy

In response to resident and local business complaints about unlicensed sidewalk vendors, the Richmond City Council unanimously voted to move forward with an ordinance that would regulate those vendors and establish a Mobile Vendor Plaza Program to increase compliance. The council says the ordinance is both a solution and an opportunity. 

The proposed ordinance includes prohibited sidewalk vendor locations and operational standards such as cart size limitations. The program would help sidewalk vendors get permits to operate in compliance with the ordinance and establish vending areas at three proposed locations: Civic Center Farmers Market, downtown Richmond and Marina Bay Farmers Market. 

“This is an attempt and a pilot program to really give solutions to all the parties,” said Vice Mayor Claudia Jimenez. 

City Council on Monday allocated $100,000 to establish the Mobile Vendor Plaza Program during the 2024-25 fiscal year that will support two initial vending sites, totaling $200,000 in funding for the program. 

A pilot site is expected in downtown Richmond this summer, in one of three locations — Marina Way and Macdonald Avenue, 16th Street and Macdonald Avenue, or Nevin Avenue and 13th Street. Marina and Macdonald would be able to host 25 mobile vendors; 16th and Macdonald, up to 12; and Nevin and 13th would have at least 20 vendor spots. 

Each site would be able to accommodate tables and a wash station and have nearby parking. The Nevin Avenue and Marina Way sites also have the potential to “activate downtown,” according to a presentation by Lina Velasco, director of community development. 

Velasco said outreach with vendors will be ongoing to ensure education surrounding regulations and to answer specific questions. 

Some street vendors and a speaker on behalf of the 23rd Street Merchants Association, which raised some of the initial concerns with unpermitted street vendors, said the ordinance was a step forward for Richmond. 

Jimenez translated one street vendor’s comments from Spanish, who spoke about working hard as a vendor but feeling that getting permits was impossible because of not having the proper resources. She asked council members to support the program. 

Oscar Garcia, speaking on behalf of the 23rd Street Merchants Association, said the group was disappointed it hadn’t been included in developing the ordinance but noted its potential and asked that required distances between a vendor and an open business be increased. 

The ordinance also ensures Richmond is in compliance with SB 946, also known as the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which decriminalizes sidewalk vending

Council is expected to adopt the ordinance at the July 2 meeting, where it will also set sidewalk vending fees. The ordinance would go into effect 30 days after the adoption. 

Council Adopts 2024-25 City Budget

The Richmond City Council adopted its 2024-25 fiscal year budget Monday. It includes funding the Mobile Vendor Plaza Program, using unspent funds for various unfunded projects, and requesting an increase in Public Works staff dedicated to parks, streetscapes and medians. 

The adoption also asks staff to develop a process that allows unfunded projects considered for unspent funds to be voted on by the council. Current unspent fund requests include the remaining unfunded Richmond Main Library’s renovations, which amounts to $4.1 million; Point Richmond street safety improvements; and exterior improvements to the Booker T. Anderson Community Center. 

An allocation of unspent funds must also be made to reserves and employment benefits. 

Council also funded the Mobile Vendor Plaza Program with an additional $100,000, totaling $200,000 in funding before beginning its pilot program this summer. 

The next Richmond City Council meeting is July 2.

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