SF street vendor whose cart was pushed by city worker receives thousands of dollars in support

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Tuesday, October 10, 2023
SF street vendor whose cart was pushed by city worker receives support
San Francisco street vendor whose hot dog cart was pushed by a public works worker employee thousands of dollars in support

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been a week since a San Francisco Public Works employee was caught on video pushing a street vendor's cart. On Monday, that street vendor is speaking for the first time.

"I was embarrassed. It was humiliating. I started thinking I just got here," said Juan Carlos Ramirez, in Spanish.

After the incident, Juan Carlos describes being shocked. He says he doesn't even remember seeing the public works employee running towards him.

"All the vendors left. People started spreading all across. I went somewhere else and I'm pulling my cart. I felt like somebody pushed it. I turned around and all my food was on the ground," said Ramirez.

RELATED: Video shows San Francisco city worker knocking over hot dog vendor's cart

An investigation is now underway into a San Francisco Public Works employee caught on video knocking over a hot dog vendor's cart.

This video went viral after a group of community organizers demanded for the city to intervene. Over the weekend, those organizers surprised Juan Carlos Ramirez with hundreds of people from across the Bay Area who wanted to meet him and buy hot dogs from him and his family.

"The video was awful so we decided to plan a buyout for him because pretty much when he pushed his cart. It's like you pushed everything he had because that is how he pays the bills. That is how he puts food on the table for his kids. That is how he pays rent," said Christian Fregoso, community organizer.

In a matter of hours, Juan Carlos sold 250 hot dogs in a parking lot in Alameda.

"(No pense que tenia tanto apoyo. Una fila.) I didn't imagine that I had so much support. There was a long line," said Ramirez.

In a video, Juan Carlos can be seeing thanking everyone for supporting his family. Online many have donated over $5,000 on a GoFundMe page.

"Juan Carlos when he was there he didn't expect that turn out. Especially him. He didn't expect that big turnout. He was just super happy. He couldn't believe it," said Fregoso.

MORE: California bill aims to help street food vendors by changing retail code

Last week, the San Francisco Public Works department apologized for the employee's actions. On Monday in a joint statement with the city, the department said in part:

"When City staff enforce street vending rules - issuing permits, upholding health codes and keeping the right of way accessible and safe - we are doing this work on behalf of the public to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all."

Juan Carlos is hoping for other vendors to also get help saying many have been mistreated by city workers.

"(Que se haga justicia en como actuo.) I would like to see justice because of how he acted," said Ramirez.

Juan Carlos says he is hoping to get a permit soon and start a food business.

MORE: 1st resource fair designed for San Jose street vendors helps with safety, growing business

Full statement by the San Francisco Department of Public Works:

"Joint City Statement on Street Vending Rules in San Francisco:

The City and County of San Francisco and its employees have the responsibility of keeping San Franciscans and visitors safe and healthy and maintaining orderly and safe streets, sidewalks and promenades.

When City staff enforce street vending rules - issuing permits, upholding health codes and keeping the right of way accessible and safe - we are doing this work on behalf of the public to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all.

The goals are to protect the health and safety of residents and visitors, to improve street conditions, create a legal path for street vendors to sell their goods while also meeting health and safety requirements, and help brick-and-mortar businesses thrive.

In 2022 the City established a multiagency task force that includes Public Works, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), the Port of San Francisco and the City Administrator's Offices to address public health and safety risks associated with unpermitted vending.

The multiagency task force has been engaging with unpermitted vendors for more than a year, beginning with a multi-lingual education campaign that offered guidance to vendors on how to get permitted and register their business with the City at the one-stop Permit Center at 49 S. Van Ness. Additionally, SFDPH and the Port of San Francisco held multi-language workshops and met with community-based organizations specifically designed to support unpermitted food vendors to apply for and receive permits.

The Environmental Health Branch of the Department of Public Health issues permits to food facilities that include, but are not limited to, mobile food vendors to protect San Franciscans and visitors from improper food handling, cross contamination and ultimately any illness that will be caused from food that has been prepared, stored or cooked in unsanitary conditions.

People who patronize unpermitted vendors risk getting a foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year in the United States 48 million people will get a foodborne illness, 128,000 of those will be hospitalized and 3,000 people will die. Foodborne illnesses are a serious issue and occur when food is prepared and handled in an unsanitary manner. Most unpermitted vendors selling food lack adequate refrigeration, access to clean water and handwashing stations, and often keep food in unsanitary conditions.

When it comes to the sale of non-food-related items on sidewalks and plazas, Public Works issues and enforces permits. As stewards of the public right of way, Public Works takes seriously its responsibility to keep the path of travel on sidewalks safe and accessible for all.

To further that mission, Public Works launched its street vending permit program last year. Its goals are to:

  • Keep the public right of way free of hazards so people can access public transit stops, visit shops and restaurants and safely traverse the city

  • Create a legal route for vendors to sell outdoors

  • Crack down on the sale of stolen items

  • Since the inception of the program, Public Works has issued 170 street vendor permits with 165 of those applicants qualifying for a fee waiver. More than 80% (141 permits) have been issued in the Mission District.

    Vendors must have their permit either printed or on their phone while they are selling. If a street inspector asks to see the permit, the vendor must be able to show it to them. Public Works conducts daily inspections, with San Francisco police on hand to ensure safety for City staff during enforcement operations.

    Permits are good for up to a year and need to be renewed annually. Public Works sends email reminders to notify permit holders that it is time to renew.

    The local legislation underpinning the street vending program provides vendors an opportunity to leave the area prior to their goods being subject to impoundment.

    Public Works and its City partners spent several months leading up to the start of enforcement last year working with community groups to let people know about the new permit and to help them through the permit application process. Outreach has been conducted in English, Spanish and Chinese."
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