CALEXICO — The Calexico City Council approved a resolution that adopted regulations regarding sidewalk vendors and created permits for them to apply for during a special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 26. 

These permits are designed to help stimulate the economic recovery and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 shut down. City staff determined it was in the best interest of the city and its local businesses to allow for the creation of special permits during the holiday season.

Development Services Director Lisa Tylenda said these types of permits are normally given out during holiday seasons, but this time the permit is intended to aid business recovering from the pandemic.

“The sidewalk vending permit before you is focused on kind of a test run. Within the last two years, the state of California released SB 946. That state law outlines what sidewalk vendors can and cannot do … this resolution creates parameters for the boundaries that are named here,” said Tylenda. 

The permit will cost businesses $50 for the year and is issued by the Planning and Building Services Department. An active city business license will also be required for operations on the sidewalk to be approved.

The sidewalk permitting structure will apply to the downtown area between Mary Avenue, to Imperial Avenue West to East and from First Street to Fifth Street. The permits allow for retail businesses to use the front of their stores to display merchandise as long as they’re adjacent sidewalks are more than 20 feet wide. Retailers can use up to 10 feet of sidewalk space and must maintain at least 5 feet of unobstructed pedestrian walkway space.

Tylenda said there are different parameters for sidewalk vendors depending on the size of the sidewalk they are operating on. 

“If someone proposed to do sidewalk vending in a residential neighborhood, the sidewalks there are much smaller than the sidewalks compared to our downtown district, so what happens then,” Tylenda said. “We have to go do an analysis and see what kind of parameters for health and safety can we create so if a business does want to conduct sales in a residential sidewalk, that we can make sure that anyone in that area … are safe.”

City Manager Miguel Figueroa felt this resolution was urgent and that this support for local business will foster more engagement with the community as a whole. 

Robert Gronich from Garlan’s Department Store in downtown Calexico was one of a few business owners in attendance and supported the creation of sidewalk permits.

“For me as a merchant in downtown Calexico, we’re obviously very, very excited. We’re very happy that the border is going to be opening on November 8,” said Gronich. “For a lot of merchants here in Calexico, we bought a lot of aging inventory that has not sold due to the pandemic and so the sidewalk sales is going to be an excellent, excellent tool for a lot of merchants to be able to blow out a lot of these amounts and promote the sidewalk sales which a lot of our customers like.”

Gronich said he spoke with various leading business owners in the area and that all were in complete agreement in supporting permits for sidewalk sales. 

“I wanted to share with you these names because I don’t want you to think I’m the only business owner here, there are many merchants who fully support to have sidewalk sales in downtown Calexico,” said Gronich. 

President of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Calexico Katie Luna also gave public comment to the sidewalk permits and said she was very excited to hear about them. 

“Since about June of 2020 we have been sitting at the edge of seats saying, ‘when are we going to have our bounce back, when are we going to have our bounce back,’ and this is it. This is an exciting time for our business community,” said Luna. 

Tylenda said this resolution will continually come back up for renewal every year to accommodate for potential changes and updates for the different types of sidewalks that lie within the city. 

Councilmember Rosie Arreola-Fernandez stressed that all safety precautions needed to be taken to make sure other problems do not arise. 

“I want to make sure that all safety measures are being taken and everything is going to be followed as it’s stated, because we don’t want to get into problems afterwards … another thing is to make sure that the businesses are kept clean,” said Arreola-Fernandez. 

Figueroa said the Police Department is working hand-in-hand with the Code and Enforcement agency to ensure that all safety measures are being taken. 

Councilmember Gloria Romo asked why this permit was only taking into consideration the area of downtown and nowhere else in the city. Tylenda said the focus is on downtown because of the economic situation, but that Manager Figueroa has the power to sanction sidewalk vendors outside that specific area. 

Mayor Pro-tem Camilo Garcia said he wanted to see this resolution be focused on the entire city to incentivize all businesses out there.

Tylenda said the last resolution of this kind was issued back in 2012 and the fee was exactly the same. 

“I did not offer to change it or think about even changing it, because if we charged $50 in 2012, I wanted to make sure that, now even with COVID, we kept it at the same level. And if it’s the council’s direction to want to reduce it … you have the ability to and we can do that,” said Tylenda. “I wanted to keep it consistent with what was charged previously.” 

All five councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the sidewalk vendor permits. 

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