Weeks before a new state law decriminalizing street vendors was set to go into effect, the Pasadena City Council ordered city staff to rewrite a city ordinance regulating sales from street carts.

Senate Bill 946, which takes effect on Jan. 1, reduces violations of a city’s Municipal Code to an administrative fine. Under the city’s current ordinance, street vendors can be arrested and their carts and products seized by police.

State law now also allows stationary and roaming sidewalk vendors in commercial areas and in parks, and allows roaming sidewalk vendors in residential areas.

The new state law also prohibits cities from regulating vendor hours differently from other businesses on the same street. Vendors cannot be regulated to specific areas, unless there is a health risk involved.

“This is troubling,” said Council member Margaret McAustin. “We’re not like LA or other big cities. This is troubling for our commercial districts.”

Old Pasadena Management District President and CEO Steve Mulheim called the new law “a game changer.”

“This will be a real challenge,” Mulheim said.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced the legislation after learning about sidewalk vendors being harassed and arrested, including one incident in which a woman selling corn on a sidewalk in Rancho Cucamonga was detained by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She was later released by an immigration judge.

According to a city staff report, the new law was created in part to protect “low-income and immigrant communities” where many vendors make their livings selling food, but face a high risk of establishing a criminal record.

“The regulations proposed balance the need to protect low-income and immigrant communities while protecting the general health, safety and welfare of the entire Pasadena community,” the city staff report states.

The new ordinance will also designate concerts, games at the Rose Bowl and the Roses Parade as “special events,” which will allow the city to regulate sidewalk vendors at those events.

“We’re at critical mass with congested sidewalks on weekends,” said Mulheim. “One busker with an audience can clog the sidewalks, forcing people to walk in the streets.”