Press Release

Senator Wiener, Mayor Breed Announce Legislation To Tackle Disruptive Fencing of Illegal Goods on San Francisco Streets


SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Mayor London Breed announced SB 925, new legislation that allows San Francisco to combat illegal fencing — the sale of stolen goods — through targeted interventions from law enforcement. Rampant fencing on city streets has disrupted neighborhoods across San Francisco, bringing in chaos and violence that displace legitimate street vendors and undermine public safety to the point that the City issued a moratorium on street vending in some neighborhoods.


SB 925 protects legitimate street vending — which enriches San Francisco neighborhoods — while allowing law enforcement to issue infractions, and a misdemeanor after multiple violations, against those who sell commonly stolen goods without a permit. The bill does not apply to prepared foods.


Under the bill, San Francisco can require vendors to obtain a permit to sell merchandise that the Board of Supervisors places on a list of goods frequently obtained through retail theft. It then establishes that selling such merchandise without a permit or proof of purchase is punishable with an infraction. On the third offense, the violation is punishable with an infraction or a misdemeanor and up to six months in county jail. 


The new criminal offenses in the bill do not apply to the vast majority of street vendors, including those who are: 

  • Selling any goods with a permit
  • Selling goods on the list, with a permit 
  • Selling prepared food, with or without a permit
  • Selling goods, with or without a permit, that are not on San Francisco’s list of goods that are frequently stolen


“San Francisco’s vibrant culture of street vending supports many families and showcases the diversity of our communities. But that cultural richness is threatened when bad actors are allowed to openly sell stolen goods on our streets, often pushing out legitimate street vendors and undermining public safety,” said Senator Wiener. “With this bill we’re taking a balanced approach that respects the critical role street vending plays in our community while holding fencing operations accountable for the disruption they cause. It’s critical that everyone feel safe on our streets, including street vendors and neighborhood residents.”


Last fall, escalating disorder connected to illegal fencing created an environment in the Mission that was increasingly unsafe for residents, small businesses, licensed vendors, and the City Public Works inspectors leading enforcement in the neighborhood. The situation prompted Mayor Breed to issue a temporary moratorium on street vending in the Mission — which was later renewed — with support from Mission Supervisor Hillary Ronen and community groups.


“In San Francisco we are working hard to make our streets safer and more welcoming for all. SB 925 would greatly help us get a handle on the sale of stolen goods, all while taking a narrow approach that specifically targets bad actors,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed, the bill’s sponsor“I would like to thank Senator Wiener for authoring this legislation and helping us gain an effective tool to address fencing here in San Francisco.”


"Our neighborhood residents, permitted street vendors, transit riders, and small businesses deserve safe sidewalks along our commercial corridors,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “This state bill provides San Francisco an essential tool in tackling the rampant sale of stolen goods and bringing order and renewed vibrancy to our neighborhoods."


Too often, large fencing operations and the danger that accompanies them force legitimate vendors out of communities. The displacement and risks to public safety resulting from the current situation have caused many vendors to call for a limited role for law enforcement in enforcing street vending rules. Twelve community groups representing the Mission have signed onto a letter of support for SB 925, which reads in part:


We are supportive of this legislation because something must be done to address the pressing safety issues in our community. The proliferation of individuals selling stolen items has deeply impacted the health and welfare of our residents and merchants along commercial corridors near transit stations in multiple neighborhoods. The sellers of stolen items have also threatened and physically assaulted front-line Public Works staff, community members, and our permitted vendors, while making our sidewalks unsafe and chaotic by blocking path of travel.  


Both our brick-and-mortar businesses and permitted vendors were deeply impacted by the pandemic, and as our City supports their recovery, these efforts are hampered by the City’s limitations to regulate unpermitted bad actors. We seek support from the state to give the City more tools to address the sale of stolen goods on our streets, because the current tools have unintended and severe impacts on those who have followed the rules.


In 2018, California decriminalized sidewalk vending with the passage of SB 946, the “Safe Sidewalk Vending Act.” The law — which has many benefits — effectively barred law enforcement from enforcing violations related to street vending, replacing the former criminal system with an administrative penalty system. SB 946 has lifted up many street vendors, particularly those who sell prepared food. This legal change also prompted San Francisco to rely heavily on administrative enforcement, which became untenable as conditions on the streets deteriorated under the influx of criminal activity. SB 925 provides law enforcement with a narrow tool to protect public safety, ensuring that existing law works well.


“Selling stolen goods is unacceptable in San Francisco. The SFPD has supercharged our efforts to address organized retail crime and we’re optimistic about the results we’ve seen,” said Chief Bill Scott. “I want to thank Mayor Breed and Senator Wiener for identifying new ways to combat the illegal fencing of stolen goods. This will help our hard-working officers continue to make progress in cracking down on retail theft.”


Next, SB 925 will be referred to policy committees as it makes its way through the State Assembly.