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City makes final adjustments on two titles of municipal code
Ceres city seal

Final adjustments to a revised Ceres Municipal Code relating to Title 5 (Business Licenses and Regulations) and Title 12 (Streets and Sidewalks) were approved by the Ceres City Council last week.

The council is in the process of updating its extensive Municipal Code. Last week it took on Title 5 (Business Licenses and Regulations) and Title 12 (Streets and Sidewalks). Part of the process has been rearranging sections under new titles.

City Manager Toby Wells explained that a new chapter has been added regarding sidewalk vending while the section on mobile food vending has been changed substantially to jive with SB 946 passed by the California State Legislature. The new state law ties the hands of cities in controlling peddlers selling items on the street. The state does allow the city to require a business license and insurance. Food street vendors still are required to have a permit from the county Health Department.

SB 946 dictates what cities can and cannot charge for a business license, Wells noted. 

At a prior meeting the council decided to not treat the business license section as a regulatory function and leave it solely for revenue purposes. As it was drafted, the changes would have taken on a more regulatory function.

The code is changing to allow the city manager the ability to deny a business license out of concern for health and safety.

“That’s different from what we have today,” said Wells.

Mayor Chris Vierra said he wouldn’t favor a city manager usurping an approval given by a Planning Commission but is okay if the business license received prior staff level approvals. Wells replied that the only example he could think of would be the community protest over the methadone clinic which was a permitted use under the zoning that allowed it.

“That had a concern that was probably worth a conversation,” said Wells. “On the flip said, as the city manager I’m a bit uncomfortable in terms of when I would use this language to stop something.”

Vierra asked for a rewording that would allow the City Council weigh in if health and safety was involved of a business that had not undergone Planning Commission scrutiny. Wells said he was more comfortable with that scenario.

Because of SB 946, significant changes were made to chapter 5.10 relating to mobile food vending. The existing code places ice cream carts under sidewalk vending.

Wells said street vendors are supposed to have access to sanitary facilities and abide by food safety laws.

Another change allows the city manager discretion on giving the number of yard sales permitted at a single residence. In the past the law has been no more than two yard sales in a calendar year. Wells said there’s been situations were a tenant used up their allotment of two sales, the owner took occupation in the house only be rejected on a request to hold a sale. He said the two per year limit has been problematic in situations where a homeowner has had his quota of sales, died and then the surviving family been unable to have an estate sale at the same residence that year. The new change gives leeway if unique situations can be demonstrated.

The code was also clarified to make it clear that outdoor marijuana cultivation in Ceres is not allowed.

A number of the changes proposed were brought on by the city’s legal staff after looking at the policies of other cities in the Valley.