ST. PETERSBURG — Any unpermitted tables or other objects that block traffic on sidewalks or in the right of way of the St. Pete Pier or the Grand Central and Edge districts may soon be put on notice.
A St. Petersburg City Council committee on Thursday advanced a proposal to expand the boundaries set by a 2019 ordinance that established a “prohibited zone” where those items aren’t allowed.
St. Petersburg Police legal counsel Laura Roe said there is an increasing number of unpermitted vendors, particularly in the popular areas of the St. Pete Pier, Grand Central and Edge districts, that are using tables or stands without a permit. They are in the right of way, inviting people to walk up to it, which creates a crowd that blocks the sidewalk and leads to safety issues.
Though officials from the St. Petersburg Fire Department weren’t present at Thursday’s meeting, Roe said they are in agreement with expanding the ordinance and share the same concerns.
“It’s not the crowd that’s the problem,” she said. “It’s the table that’s drawing the crowd.”
She said these unpermitted vendors skirt existing ordinances by offering services or goods in exchange for donations. The ordinance does not apply to those with a sidewalk café permit or a city-issued street closure permit.
Nor does it apply to personal property, such as suitcases, bags and carts. City Council members expressed concern that the expanded ordinance could apply to homeless people toting their belongings.
Council member Richie Floyd asked if the ordinance would apply to those who feed the homeless at Williams Park. Roe said that activity is taking place in the park, not on a right of way.
She said there has been one citation issued since the ordinance went into effect. A police lieutenant present Thursday said one man who set up shop at First Friday asked police to write him a citation after he was asked several times to move his table.
“My reasoning for bringing this forward and establishing it in the first place is not about what activity is happening at the tables, but the safety issues presented at those tables,” said City Council member Gina Driscoll, who proposed the original 2019 ordinance.
The current “prohibited zone” runs from Fifth Avenue NE to Third Avenue S, from Fourth Street to Beach Drive. If approved by the full City Council, those boundaries would expand west along Central, First Avenue N and First Avenue S west to 34th Street, and south and east to include Tropicana Field, Demens Landing, Albert Whitted Park, the Pier, Mirror Lake and Bayshore Drive.
Roe said that while the physical boundaries would be expanded, the scope of the ordinance shrunk to remove language regulating sleeping, lying or reclining on the right of way during daylight hours. The city does retain the right to “remove, store, and dispose of” tables and other items that impede pedestrian traffic.
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“This is a very streamlined, slimmed-down version of this amendment that only accomplishes what we’ve talked about here today,” Roe said.