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Citizen presses for city to step up enforcement of unlicensed peddlers
peddler in Ceres ATM
Ceres resident Gene Yeakley snapped this photo of a woman peddling produce near the Bank of America ATM machines and wondered if she had a license. He called police dispatchers about enforcement and was told that police aren't enforcing that section of code.

Retired California Highway Patrol officer and Ceres resident John Warren has a reputation for not letting up when calling for city leaders to increase code enforcement and last week he continued pressing for action.

Warren shared with the council an email that Police Chief Rick Collins wrote to Gene Yeakley, another Ceres resident who is tired of the city letting code enforcement violations slide. Yeakley had called police dispatch on Sept. 16 after seeing a woman selling produce next to bank ATM machines. He was told that insteading of calling police that he needed to call Code Enforcement who had gone home for the day.

In his email to Yeakley, Chief Collins indicated that the decision not to enforce code violations relating to sidewalk vendors was “not made by me and/or me alone.”

“This really indicates that obviously the City Council and the chief of police and whoever else invited met in closed session and made some decisions that the public had no input into,” said Warren. “When you declare a holiday on law enforcement and no one will respond to an issue that is reported by a citizen that is unacceptable.”

Warren also voiced his displeasure that there are no code enforcement officers who work on Sunday.

“We need someone to respond to all issues in this city seven days a week,” Warren told the council. “You can’t say Sunday is a day that no one’s going to respond to issues. That’s not acceptable.”

He further suggested that if police won’t enforce code issues relating to vendors without a permit then other departments – he suggested Public Works or Community Development – need to take charge.

Warren also criticized the city for allowing food vending from a trailer.

Ceres resident John Osgood chimed in that if the city has decided not to enforce the Ceres Municipal Code, “we’ve all been violated.”

In August 2020, the council addressed the problem of those who peddle goods and food without getting a permit. At one meeting the council expressed interest in seizing products at which time then City Manager Tom Westbrook suggested the items be placed “in a dumpster like the county does.” The controversial comment became a political hot potato in the council election of November in which Javier Lopez defeated Bret Durossette as mayor.

State law under Senate Bill 946 forbids cities from outlawing food carts and other type of vending as long as they do not interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic but cities can require individuals to secure permits from the city (and the Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Health if selling food). Selling without a permit subjects the violator to fines through city administration, not the court system, and since they are not considered infractions or misdemeanors the police department does not cite. Warren believes police officers can act as a citing officer, however.

In an email he sent to the council the day after the council meeting, Warren wrote: “If you don’t want to enforce all the rules 24/7 don’t make them, and abolish the ones you do not want enforced.  Do not be afraid of people who want to file suit claiming racial bias because you enforce all of the rules fairly, but watch your step if you do not.”