San Jose May Waive Fees for Street Peddlers

To encourage entrepreneurship and bring businesses into compliance, the city of San Jose may suspend permitting fees for all street vendors.

The proposal, signed by council members Tam Nguyen and Magdalena Carrasco and Mayor Sam Liccardo, goes before the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday.

A study by the National League of Cities found that mobile and fixed street vendors generate $650 million a year nationwide, a figure expected to grow to $2.7 billion by 2017. Liccardo, Nguyen and Carrasco suggest waiving the peddler permit fee and the business license tax for two months and organizing workshops to teach people how to come up to code.

"The city of San Jose attracts immigrants from hundreds of countries throughout the world," the trio write. "Its multicultural residents bring with them a valuable entrepreneurial spirit and in many cases help drive the findings above. Many small businesses have the desire to open for business but do not have the understanding of the lengthy process they must go through to obtain the proper permits."

In 2013, the city launched an initiative to help small businesses through the permitting process. The Small Business Ally program has been a huge hit, the city says. Liccardo highlighted it in his March spending plan, directing the city manager to drum up ideas for expanding the program, especially for immigrant-run small businesses.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for April 1, 2015:

  • Following through on a suggestion from Councilman Don Rocha, the city will consider moving the public comment portion of the City Council to the beginning of meetings, so people don't have to sit through hours of testimony to speak. City Clerk Toni Taber noted in her report, however, that keeping public comment at the end of the afternoon session and the end of evening sessions, when there is one, generally fits people's schedules, giving them a chance to drop by after work. "The advantage to retaining the public comment period at the end of the afternoon meeting is that members of the public can come by on their way home from work or leave work early in order to attend and speak at the end of the meeting," Taber writes. "Moving public comment to the beginning of the afternoon meeting may prevent some members of the public from speaking in the afternoon as it starts quite early."
  • Councilwoman Rose Herrera, who served in the U.S. Air Force, asked the city to explore the idea of creating a program that would give businesses owned by disabled veterans preference in city contracts.
  • Some council members want to draft a Clean Air Act resolution urging President Obama to do something about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "Adopting a strong environmental resolution ... a day before Earth Day would show our city's commitment and leadership in the fight against climate change," reads the memo signed by council members Raul Peralez, Chappie Jones, Ash Kalra, Don Rocha and Margie Matthews.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Unregulated peddlers do not deserve any consideration from city hall. If they cannot comply with Health and or associated ordinances because they are too stupid or too poor they have no right to jeopardize the public’s health because Mayor Liccardo, et al. wants to get “warm and fuzzy” with them.

    The Downtown sidewalks are already congested with; bicycle riders, shiftless miscreants, sloppy whores, under the influence-drug-user-zombies and other societal rejects. Now the impetus at city hall wants to add to the clutter of societal wastes with “immigrants” and or illegal aliens masquerading as Five-star restaurant chefs.

    Let us not forget the numerous restaurants that are in the Downtown who have to pay burdensome and oppressive fees to stay in legal compliance. Why should this sector of culinary stalwarts suffer a loss of market share with a cadre who peddle the equivalent of a “rat-on-a-stick?”

    Don’t forget such a “suspension of fees” for all peddlers will have with respect to City Parks and neighborhoods.

    How would Council react if; Original Joe’s (N 1st @ W San Carlos), Teske’s (Achtung!) Germania (N 1st @ Devine), Wings-Chinese (N 4th @ Jackson-Japan Town), Corona-Mexican (N 4th @ Jackson-Japan Town), Tsugaru-Japanese (Between N 5th / 6th on Jackson-Japan-Town), Mi Pueblo (N 6th @ Julian), and Guadalajara #2 (N 10th @ Empire) all set-up “satellite-peddler” operations of their own to combat loss or to gain of market share with reference to no fees and or regulations?

    Jenn W-

    The picture of the street vendor sporting a very pricy cooking and marketing rig undermines the argument to waive fees and regulations. Get a picture of Ermalita selling her tasty Tamales out of her station wagon at Home Depot parking lot (2435 Lafayette-Santa Clara) around late October-early November. (The cheese-jalapeño ones are exceptional!)

    David S. Wall

    • LOL David S Wall.. I love the way nobody listens to a word you say at city council.. it’s like everybody takes a little break while you blather on and on, about every single issue, no matter how insignificant. You really enjoy hearing yourself talk I guess

    • I feel people might be more receptive to the point you make if you weren’t so overtly racial and classist in your comments and motivations. Why do that? In addition, every group you call “miscreants” and “societal rejects” are entitled to the same protections, rights, and dignity that you are, so addressing them with respect and generosity is certainly what democratic duty obliges.

  2. Can I quit paying my yearly city business license now too?
    Oh, yeah. I forgot. I’m a white guy.

    • John Galt: If your business is downtown, you also pay a per employee (including you) fee to pay the generous salaries of the SJDTA crew, who spend their days pimping DTSJ as they helplessly watched it spiral downward into a Skid Row over the last decade. And there’s the extra contribution to a DTSJ BID which employs Groundwerx, a group of very nice employees who have lost the battle with the taggers and are failing miserably to keep the expensive granite pavers clean along the light rail corridor; while they spend hours and hours each week hand watering hanging flower pots and box planters bolted to surface parking lot pony walls around the DT.

  3. JW–an interesting and important factoid you neglected to tell us–the amount of the fees per cart.

  4. And another factoid of interest and importance not found in your post–how many of these carts are owner operated versus by guys employed (probably at minimum wage, and probably here illegally) by a company that puts lots of them on the streets?

  5. > Many small businesses have the desire to open for business but do not have the understanding of the lengthy process they must go through to obtain the proper permits.”

    Hell, native born Americans with advanced business degrees don’t “have the understanding of the lengthy process they must go through to obtain the proper permits.”

  6. This is a good decision. These are businesses that run on a sufficiency model. No one ever became a billionaire selling street food and it allows for people to supplement their income. I’ve been complaining for years that business is cost prohibitive with all the permits and insurance be obtained. It’s long overdue that government gets out of the way of people trying to earn a living which is their natural right. No one is entitled to be an employee but they have a right to a living if they can make it on their own.

  7. Nicholas Ian Cortese: One view is that city fees are oppressive to individuals just trying to make a buck. I cannot make a judgment on that claim without knowing what the fees are, but Jennifer didn’t tell us. Another view is that city fees pay for inspections that keep us all safe from folks who might cut corners with food safety, either deliberately, accidentally, or due to ignorance of proper food safety procedures. Both views have merit. Kathleen might be able to help the city to find a middle ground that satisfies both points of view.

    • JohnMichael O’Connor: With all due respect the former is the proper view while the latter is the asinine. I needn’t go on a rant about the nanny state, people can decide for themselves if they think the food is safe to eat. A vendor who makes his customers sick is not going to be in business very long. There are literally millions of people around the world that make their living this way. Having knowledge of proper food handling is not a panacea either. There are plenty of people with the knowledge working in food service that simply don’t care, and they are professionals in brick and mortar establishments. Finally if I am not mistaken California Law already supersedes CSJ municipal law which requires people working with food to have a food handlers certification.

  8. Nicholas Ian Cortese: I suggested two possible views on the question of street vendor fees, and you got all pissy and insulting. So, new Cortese, please explain what is asinine about the view that city fees pay for regulation? Do you even know what the fees are? If so, let us know. Jennifer didn’t. If not, how can you claim they are oppressive? Yes, there are street food vendors all over the world. The indigenous folks are accustomed to their products and don’t get sick; yet many of us here in the USA cannot even drink the water in your garden paradises of food cart entrepreneurship without getting the runs. The belief in the concept that because something works in the third world for its inhabitants it will work here doesn’t pass the logic test. The position that folks should subject themselves to unsafe food, because if they get sick they can just not go back to that vendor again, is naïve at best.

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