Civic Center Open: 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mask required in building with social distancing. Click COVID-19 for information.



Vendor Guide to Doing Business With the City

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

Thank you for your interest in doing business with the City of Vista! We hope this guide will benefit you as a new or current supplier. Our aim is to help you in your sales effort and to promote a good business relationship with the City of Vista. This Vendor Guide outlines the City’s purchasing policies and procedures as set out in chapter 3.08 of the Vista Municipal Code. We want to make this experience as easy as possible for you, so please contact us with any questions.

Mission Statement

It is the mission of the City of Vista’s Purchasing Program to procure quality materials and services that meet the City’s specifications and are provided when required at reasonable prices.


The purpose of this guide is to explain how a vendor may participate in the process to gain the City’s business. The City is always interested in securing responsible vendors who can meet its supply needs promptly and economically.


The City has a decentralized purchasing program. Each City department is responsible for making their own purchases and securing their own service contracts except for the following items: citywide printed forms, multipurpose paper for city copiers and printers, and the service maintenance contract for city copiers.  These items are purchased and maintained by the Finance Department (760-639-6170).

Sales Calls & Contacts

Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (closed every other Friday).  We know your time is valuable, so to ensure you receive adequate attention, we recommend that you make an appointment with the department that you wish to work with before coming to the appropriate City offices. Routine “courtesy” visits are permitted, but you may not be able to meet with the person you need due to previously scheduled meetings or activities.

Vendor Registration

A list of interested and responsible vendors is maintained by each department depending on their purchasing needs. Please contact the department that you wish to do business with to state your desire to provide goods or services. Because of the large number of suppliers with whom the City staff interacts, informing the appropriate department of your desire to provide goods or services does not guarantee you will be notified every time a quotation or bid for that particular commodity or service is needed. Staff may also contact firms that are not on the list of suppliers. Failure to respond to three (3) consecutive invitations for bids or quotes may result in the removal of your firm’s name from the supplier list.

Business Registration Tax/License

A City of Vista Business License is required of any person/company who transacts or carries on any business, trade, profession or occupation in the City of Vista. Please contact the Business License Division at 760.639.6174 or visit the City of Vista’s website for more information.

Bidding Process Specifications

In most instances, written specifications are used in the bidding process to describe the required level of quality, quantity, delivery, and scope of work. In addition to the specifications, certain terms and conditions governing purchases are also outlined in the bid form. Sometimes a vendor may expend considerable time and money presenting a product to an individual City department in hopes of making a sale. Please keep in mind, however, doing this does not guarantee you an order. Given certain factors, the eventual bid or sale may be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder by competitive bid procedure. Specifications prepared by City departments are carefully reviewed by City staff to eliminate undue restrictions and other limitations which unnecessarily reduce competition. The purchase will eventually be made from the “lowest responsible bidder” meeting the specifications, terms and conditions of the bid. Please also keep in mind that any assistance you offer a department in developing its purchase request cannot be considered when the City makes the purchase. We recommend if you are called upon to provide expensive pre-purchase services that you consider contracting separately with the department for this service.

Basis for Award

It is the City’s desire to develop maximum competition for all purchases and to make awards based on the lowest responsible and responsive bid received. “Lowest responsible bidder” means the lowest bidder whose offer best responds in quality, fitness, and capacity to the requirement of the proposed work or usage at the lowest price to the City. Such factors as delivery time, quality, compatibility, references, experience, parts and services, freight cost, payment terms, etc., play an important role in awarding a purchase order to the “lowest responsible bidder.” A “responsive” bid is one which is in substantial conformance with the requirements of the specifications, the invitation to bid, and the City’s contractual terms and conditions. This would also include such things as completeness of any forms, inclusion of references and attachments, and completion of required responses.

Delivery and Inspections

Shipment in almost all cases is to be made to the City of Vista, FOB (Free On Board) destination. Requirements for delivery are specified on all bids and purchase orders. Failure to meet the specified delivery date may negatively impact your firm’s overall performance rating.

Bid Opening and Results

Most City contracts are awarded by either the formal or informal bid process. Bidders are required to submit their bids in sealed envelopes and all bids are opened and read aloud in public at the bid opening. All bids are a matter of public record. Bid award information is available by calling the City Clerk’s office or awarding department and requesting a copy of the bids. It may take time to compile all the results of a bid so please be patient if the information you are requesting is not immediately available. The Bid contact will call you back as soon as the information is available.

Change Orders

Any change to the contract must be in writing and authorized by the contracting department, the City Manager or the City Council depending on the type of change and the dollar amount of the change order if applicable.

Billing and Payment

The City requires invoices to process payment on any purchase order or contract. The purchase order number must appear on all invoices, shipping tags, and all correspondence relevant to the order. Payment is made after receipt of correct invoices and delivery and acceptance of material as specified on the purchase order. Unless otherwise instructed, invoices should be submitted to the bid contact, care of their department at:

200 Civic Center Drive.
VISTA, CA 92084

Sending your invoice to any other department (unless so instructed) may delay payment. The City tries to pay all invoices within thirty (30) days of receipt of invoice and acceptance of order. Questions regarding payment of invoices should be made to Accounts Payable. Please have the purchase order and invoice number available for easy reference and the Finance Department at 760-639-6170.


The City is exempt from federal excise tax, but pays sales and use taxes when applicable.

Method of Procurement

The following methods of purchasing are available:
Petty Cash: City personnel are authorized to make petty cash purchases up to $40.
Credit Card: City personnel are authorized to purchase goods up to $1,000. 
Annual Purchase Orders: Issued to vendors for multiple, low dollar value purchases for use on an as-needed basis, or for orders established through annual contract, where specific pricing is established with vendors for the term of the contract which is illustrated on the purchase order.
Purchase Orders: Purchases over $15,000 and less than $50,000 require competitive quotations whenever possible and are generally made through an informal bid process. Bids are usually submitted in sealed envelopes but may, in certain cases be submitted to the Purchasing Office via telephone, in person, by mail, by facsimile transmission or by email. Instructions on how your quotation should be submitted will be provided at the time the request for quotation is made. For purchases over $50,000 ($100,000 for public works projects), formal written sealed bids are normally solicited. Formal bids include detailed instructions for submission. Please make sure to read all instructions to ensure your bid is deemed responsive.

Local Business

The City is very interested in promoting local businesses. We see local businesses as an important part of a competitive bid process which deserves our encouragement and help. The City takes positive steps to maximize the utilization of local business enterprises in purchasing and contract activity by providing information about the City’s procurement process and procedures and by engaging in targeted outreach efforts. As stated, the City Council has adopted a 1% local business preference policy local ordinance (VMC 3.08.020). This preference is applied to all supply, service and equipment purchases for taxable goods and services not involving public works projects. In determining the lowest responsible bid, the City will reduce the bids for local businesses by 1% and compare that bid amount against all other bids. It is therefore possible that a bid from a local business may be deemed the lowest responsible bidder when the 1% local business preference is applied even though the bid was not the lowest one submitted. The 1% local business preference will not affect the actual contract price.

A local business is defined as a business, person, firm or establishment whose principle place of business is located within the City of Vista, holding a current Vista Business License and in possession of a valid and current sellers permit, or equivalent, issued by the State Board of Equalization, which identifies the City of Vista as the point of sale for all taxable retail sales within the city.

It is important to note that this policy is not intended to override any fiduciary responsibility of the City of Vista to obtain the best price, quality, and service available for items to be purchased with the taxpayer dollar.

Proposition V

The Vista Municipal Code chapters 2.33 and 2.44, known as Proposition V, prohibits many City officials from accepting gifts by business doing business with the City. Furthermore any gifts that may be allowed must be reported by the accepting party. For these reasons and to promote an atmosphere of good governance, it is not recommended that gifts be given or received by business or people wanting to do or doing business with the City of Vista.


In many instances, the City requires a certificate of insurance verifying coverage per our insurance requirements when doing business with the City. Whenever insurance is required, the vendor will be supplied with complete requirements for coverage by the bid contact. Please contact the Risk Management Division at 760.639.6145 if you have questions about insurance that can not be answered by the bid documents or contact person.

Acting Without a Purchase Order Number

All purchases over $1,000 charged to the City require a purchase order. If an individual calls you and attempts to place an order without a City purchase order number, you are cautioned to request an authorized purchase order number and obtain the name and department of the individual. The purchase order number is vital in doing business with the City and guarantees the vendor payment from the City. Exceptions: There may be times during an emergency when an order must be placed without a purchase order. Be assured that true emergency purchases at such times without purchase order numbers will be approved. Be sure to obtain the individual’s name and department and request identification if the order is placed in person. The employee who placed the order will contact you with an authorized purchase order number and information when they are able following the emergency.

Americans with Disabilities Act

In compliance with the American with Disabilities Act, if you or someone in your firm needs special assistance to participate in a walk-through or attend a prebid conference, please contact the identified contact on the bid package and request the necessary assistance. Notification 48 hours prior to the meeting will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility to the meeting. No vendor providing a service, program or activity to the public on behalf of the City shall discriminate against any person because of sex, race, color, creed, national origin, or disability. Vendors, if providing a service, program or activity to the public on behalf of the City, shall comply with the American with Disabilities Act and City’s policies pursuant thereto when providing said service, program or activity.

Other Programs You May Want to Know About

• Public Agency Consortium (PAC). PAC is a partnership of San Diego public agencies focused on increasing both the bidding opportunities and likelihood of success of small businesses on public agency contracts.  The partnership includes over ten local public agencies.  Members of PAC meet to plan events, collaborate on outreach and improve the reliability of outreach resources.  Information on PAC and bidding opportunities is available at

• The San Diego Contracting Opportunity Center (SDCOC), also known as Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), is a nonprofit organization funded by local government agencies and the Department of Defense. Their mission is to provide free assistance to San Diego small businesses on how to do business with federal, state and local government agenciest. They can be reached at or by phone at 619.285.7020.

• Small Business Development Centers. These centers help answer questions for small businesses along with providing, resources and training on how to start and/or expand your business. Many services are provided at no cost and workshops usually have a small fee to participate. In North San Diego County, contact the Small Business Development Center of North County at or by phone at 760. 795.8740.

• The California Department of General Services (DGS). DGS is the State agency that makes purchases for the State and in many cases for local governments. The Procurement Division serves as the purchasing arm for many State agencies and departments and awards contracts on their behalf. In addition the Procurement Division develops long-term purchase agreements and innovative acquisition methods to benefit all State agencies and departments, and local government agencies and departments.  The California State Contractors Register (CSCR) ( advertises contracting opportunities to prospective contractors and suppliers. Additionally, the free CSCR Subscription Outreach Service (SOS) notifies subscribers by automatic electronic email or fax of CSCR advertised opportunities. This service takes the place of the traditional bidders list. Certified California Small Businesses (SB), Microbusinesses (MB), and/or Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises (DVBE) also receive certain benefits and allowances when bidding on proposals through these programs. Their web page is located at