A group of Sacramento food truck owners and local restaurant owners said Monday they've reached a breakthrough in their negotiations over the push for an expansion of mobile food vendor operations.
The newly formed California Mobile Food Association has accepted some restrictions on food truck parking near established restaurants while gaining the ability to remain open longer.
The city's new regulations would have different rules for food trucks based on the number of brick-and-mortar restaurants in specific geographic locations.
In the downtown area, which has a high concentration of eateries and traffic, food trucks would be banned from parking within a block, or about 400 feet, of existing restaurants. The city is considering an extension of the current 30-minute time limit for a food truck to operate in one spot.
In the rest of the city, trucks would be banned from parking within 200 feet of established restaurants, and would get extended hours of operation.
City staffers are now researching and writing an ordinance that is expected to go before the City Council's Law and Legislation Committee on Sept. 18. The plan's supporters hope the ordinance will then go to the City Council for discussion two weeks later.
Councilman Jay Schenirer, who has been spearheading the negotiations, said city staff is also working on extending food truck curfews, and looking into food truck "pods," or designated properties where several food trucks can park for business.
The regulations would be revisited in six months and then in one year.
Current city laws force mobile food vendors to close at 6 p.m. in winter months and 8 p.m. in the summer. Schenirer said much of the talks centered on allowing food trucks enough time to cook food, dish it out and make a profit.
"There's a reasonable amount of time for a food truck to set up, serve meals and break down, and we're trying to find that and work around that," he said.
Engineers of the proposal herald it as a model for cities nationwide that are grappling with a meteoric rise in the popularity of gourmet food trucks, but some in the state are concerned that Sacramento's ordinance may detract from hard-fought rights by food truck vendors to run their businesses.
Daniel Conway, spokesman for the California Restaurant Association, said brick-and-mortar restaurateurs are pleased with the proposal.
"We really feel like this ordinance will be a model for other communities, with a real emphasis for finding something that works for the community," he said.
As the food truck trend grew in Sacramento, existing restaurants became concerned about their effect on business, parking, traffic and restroom policies.
"We brought some different people to the table, changed up the dialogue, and went from a zero-sum game to a way to provide for everyone's needs, and looking at what's best for Sacramento," Conway said, referring to the recent emergence of the California Mobile Food Association as a negotiator for food truck vendors. "We want to have a great civic life, but without cannibalizing existing brick-and-mortar restaurants."
Johnny Breedlove, owner of California Love Truck, called the new rules "a step in the right direction."
"Sacramento right now has some of the toughest regulations in the state, and many food truck owners don't go downtown because of them," Breedlove said. "Food trucks and the restaurants working together is good."
Matt Geller, chief executive officer of Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association, said the Sacramento association is giving up some legal rights to operating their businesses.
He said state court cases allow food trucks to operate unrestricted, and that Sacramento's negotiations may influence other cities in the state and nation.
"As an association that has changed laws in many cities, I think the compromise is outrageous," he said. "We're kind of watching to see what happens."
Schenirer said the ordinance, which was hammered out after 18 months of negotiations, is right for Sacramento.
"We're just trying to reach an agreement, and it may or may not get challenged in court," he said. "We hope it doesn't, and hope they can all do business."