Garage Sales and Yard Sales in the City of San Bernardino, California

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

When I was a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, a frequent complaint to code enforcement by residents, city staff, and elected officials, was yard sales in violation of the San Bernardino Municipal Code.  Since I was Deputy City Attorney, the ordinance has been changed.

As of this post, the blurb on the City of San Bernardino’s website says: “GARAGE/YARD SALE You are allowed to have a yard sale on the 3rd weekend of every month (“weekend” means Friday, Saturday & Sunday).  No signs are allowed to be posted on public property (i.e. utility poles).  Citations may be issued if conducting yard sale on non-designated weekends.  For more information they can call our number [909]  384-5205.”
That’s much better than when I was a city prosecutor.   You could only have a garage sale every six months, and the big kicker was that you could not have a yard sale, unless it was in your back yard.  You could have a garage sale, and that meant that the merchandise had to be in your garage.  For many residents, this was impossible because their garage was full.  As of this writing, that ordinance is still listed on the online municipal code, Chapter 5.68.  It has been repealed, do not rely on it.

Unfortunately, the ordinance has not been codified online.   You can get the codified version in the official copy of the Municipal Code in the City Clerk’s Office.  I called the City Clerk’s Office to obtain a copy of MC-1344, the current ordinance.  The deputy city clerk I spoke to  said she could email me a copy of  MC-1344 .  She very promptly did.  The ordinance, current as of this post, can be found here.

The highlights of the ordinance are as follows:

“Yard Sale” means the offer of sale of personal property open to the public conducted from or on a premise in any residential or commercial zone.  The term “Yard Sale” includes, but is not limited to, all sales entitled advertised or called “garage sale,” “lawn sale,” “yard sale,” “porch sale'”, [sic] patio sale”, [sic]  “estate sale”, [sic] “moving sale”,[sic] “flea market,” or “rummage”[sic] sale.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.010(E).  [I typed it as found in the ordinance, including the unconventional switch from commas within the quotes, and the fact that rummage is quoted, but sale is not.]

Residents can’t have yard sales more than 12 times in a calendar year.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(A).  Yard sales can’t be longer than three consecutive days.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(B). Yard sales can only be held during daylight hours (which aren’t defined).  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(C).  Yard sales can only be conducted the third weekend of the month (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.020(D).

Only Personal Property (“property which is owned utilized or maintained by an individual or members of a residence or family and acquired in the normal course of living in or maintaining a residence. It does not include new merchandise or merchandise which was purchased for resale or obtained on consignment.”) can be sold at a yard sale.  No  Personal Property can be displayed in the public right-of way (Public right-of-way is undefined, but probably means sidewalk and parkway, on lots with sidewalks and/or parkways, and certainly in the street).  All “Personal Property
shall be arranged so that fire safety service and other officials may have access for inspection at all times during the sale.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.030.

Signage: Three unlighted signs not exceeding four square feet, only during the sale, only on the Yard Sale real property, they may be posted 24 hours before the sale and removed after the sale.  That last part contradicts the earlier sentence that “Such signs shall be displayed only during the period of the Yard Sale.”  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.040(A).  No more than four Directional signs, not larger than 2 square feet, may be placed on private property with the owner’s consent (but not in the public right-of-way).  San  Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.040(B) & (C).

Estate sales, as defined by the Code, are exempt from the limitations on frequency (12 times a month and the third weekend) and  require a permit.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.050.  Non-profits, as defined by the Code, are exempt from the limitations on frequency listed for estate sales if the sale is on property owned or leased by the non-profit, and do not require a permit.  San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.060.

The violation is a wobblette, an alternate misdemeanor or infraction. San Bernardino Municipal Code section 8.14.070.  When I prosecuted Chapter 5.68, it was a straight misdemeanor.

There are some problems with this ordinance.  It was cut and pasted from the previous Chapter 8.14.  Estate sales require a permit, though no permit process appears in the ordinance.  The ordinance defines “Department” and “Residential Zone” and then neglects to use those terms in the revised Chapter 8.14.  The first sentence of section 8.14.030 uses the term yard sale instead of “Yard Sale,” creating ambiguity as to whether the definition of “Yard Sale” found in 8.14.010(E) applies.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog.  You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
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